Rochester Woman Online April 2024 Edition

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WOMAN ON THE RISE Christine LoDestro

320 HER EDGE 288
116 NEW
338 THE
90 CHECK IT OUT Vinifera
Paw Rescue



Western, Central & Upstate NY

Women Entrepreneurs



North Paw Rescue

20 139
Fatima Razic


Marcy Miller, entrepreneur and founder of Pure Placid was photographer in the WeShootFilms production studios in Perinton Square in Fairport, NY. Hair by Tiffanie Tartaglia of Salon Bella Vita in Pittsford, NY with make-up by Diva Davila.

Dear Rochester Woman Online Community,

Welcome to our April edition of Rochester Woman Online Magazine! This month, we are thrilled to celebrate the incredible achievements of women entrepreneurs, with a special focus on the unstoppable Marcy Miller, the founder and creator of Pure Placid. Marcy’s journey from humble beginnings to claiming her rightful place at the top is truly inspiring, and we can’t wait for you to read all about it starting on page [20].

But that’s not all! Our cover story features the remarkable Shakira Smith, whose journey from being the first in her family to attend and graduate college to becoming an attorney is nothing short of extraordinary. Join us as we delve into her story and those of 10 other amazing women entrepreneurs from across Western, Central, and Upstate New York, starting on page 139.

In this edition, you’ll find empowering stories, insightful interviews, and valuable resources to inspire and encourage women everywhere. And don’t forget to check out our upcoming events for the remainder of 2024, as well as our incredible advertisers who play a vital role in supporting our vision and ensuring that we can continue to provide you with this publication for free!

Thank you for being part of our community, and we hope you enjoy this special edition celebrating the strength, resilience, and success of women entrepreneurs.

And if you know a woman who embodies empowerment and inspiration or if you’re eager to showcase your business in our upcoming editions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

We also are also super excited to be teamed up with WeShootFilms and their amazing production and editing studio and creating the Conversations With Kelly Podcast. Let us know if you would like to join us as a special guest, we would love to have you!

Happy reading!

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Rochester Woman ONLINE is the premier professional woman’s online publication in the Greater Rochester area. Our feature articles address major topics that interest local women. Each issue includes articles on health, fashion, fitness, finance, dining, lifestyle and personal perspectives, as well as a spotlight on local area women. The electronic magazines are distributed freely through your favorite app store and will be in your inbox electronically by the first week of every month. The publication is available free of charge. Please feel free to contact publisher Kelly Breuer at 585.727.9120 or you can email us at Download our current media kit at The magazine is published 12 times a year by Rochester Woman ONLINE. Copyright © 2024. Rochester Woman ONLINE. No part of this magazine may be reproduced or republished without the consent of the publisher. Rochester Woman ONLINE is not responsible for unsolicited submissions, manuscripts, photos or artwork. All such submissions become the property of Rochester Woman ONLINE and will not be returned.

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We are excited to introduce you to Marcy Miller, the latest cover woman of Rochester Woman Online magazine, whose journey epitomizes the essence of tranquility and entrepreneurship. Through founding Pure Placid, Miller has carved a niche in the wellness industry, offering solace through the power of scent, and teaching people to “claim their calm”.

Embarking on her entrepreneurial journey at just 23, Miller’s vision transcends mere business success; it’s about fostering serenity and empowering others to reclaim their calm amidst life’s chaos. With two thriving locations, and a third coming soon, Pure Placid serves as an oasis for those seeking respite from the daily grind.

At the heart of Pure Placid lies a commitment to empower individuals to manage stress and find inner peace through aromatherapy. Miller’s dedication to this mission drives her to constantly expand her reach and broaden her audience, touching lives beyond geographical boundaries.

your background and what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

My journey into entrepreneurship is deeply rooted in my personal battle with anxiety. Inspired by my own experiences, I was driven to explore ways to alleviate stress and anxiety not just for myself but for others as well. I studied essential oils under Dr. Gary Young and natural cosmetics under Horst Rachelbacher, gaining a profound understanding of how natural ingredients can be transformative. Alongside this, my

profound power of scent, using safe, sustainable ingredients that nurture both people and the environment.

How did you come up with the name Pure Placid?

The name “Pure Placid” came to me instinctively as it perfectly encapsulates the essence of the brand. “Pure” reflects our commitment to using clean, safe ingredients, highlighting the purity and quality of our products. “Placid,” meaning calm, represents the serene and soothing experiences we aim to provide through our scents. Together, “Pure Placid” conveys the core of our mission to help people claim their calm in a natural and wholesome way, using the transformative power of scent. The name serves as a clear and direct message of what our brand stands for.

What motivated you to establish a company focused on clean and safe home and body fragrances?

In our exclusive interview with Marcy Miller, she shares insights into her entrepreneurial journey, the challenges she’s overcome, and her unwavering passion for shaping and nurturing her business. Discover what motivates and excites this visionary leader as she continues to inspire others to embrace the calm in their lives.

Could you share with us a bit about

professional background as a Registered Nurse, with a focus on mental health and the nervous system, and my skills as a massage therapist, have all contributed to a holistic view of well-being.

The mentorship I received from Jack Ma was a turning point in my career, helping me channel my knowledge and passion into a successful business. This was when Pure Placid truly took flight. My aim with Pure Placid has always been to empower others to find their calm and manage stress through the

Growing up in the Adirondacks, a vast 6 million acre preserve in upstate New York, I was always surrounded by the beauty and purity of nature. This environment instilled in me a deep appreciation for safe, clean ingredients. It was only natural that this appreciation would translate into my products. When I decided to establish a company, focusing on clean and safe home and body fragrances was a clear choice. I wanted to create products that not only evoke calm and well-being through

“Keep moving, keep dreaming, and let each small step carry you towards your greatest aspirations.”


scent but also respect and preserve the natural environment that has always been my home and inspiration.

Can you tell us about the significance of choosing locations like Lake Placid, Skaneateles, and now Saratoga Springs for your business?

Lake Placid, where I grew up and still call home, has deeply influenced my values and vision for my business. This beautiful area taught me the importance of community, living an eco-friendly life, and the opportunities entrepreneurship can offer. These core values guide me when choosing new locations for expanding my business. Skaneateles and Saratoga Springs, like Lake Placid, embody these qualities. They are communities that appreciate the importance of sustainability, support local businesses, and foster a strong sense of togetherness. It’s essential that any new location for my stores shares these attributes because they resonate deeply with the ethos of my brand and the lifestyle I promote through my products.

Do you envision expanding Pure Placid to other states or countries in the future?

Yes, I definitely envision expanding Pure Placid to other states and countries in the future. My mission is to help people claim their calm, and I believe that there is an immense need for this as stress and anxiety are prevalent challenges worldwide. Through the power of scent, self-care, and education, Pure Placid can help people live lives with

less anxiety and more calm. Expanding our reach means bringing these benefits to a broader audience, allowing more people to experience the tranquility and well-being that Pure Placid offers.

What inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship, and was it always a goal for you?

I wasn’t always set on becoming an entrepreneur, but I quickly realized that working for others wasn’t the best fit for me. By the age of 23, I had already started working for myself, and since then, I’ve never looked back. What truly inspires me about entrepreneurship is the process of building a business from the ground up. The creative and strategic elements involved in developing a brand, addressing market needs, and creating products that resonate with people provide a fulfilling challenge. This passion for building and shaping a business is a key attribute for any entrepreneur, and it’s what keeps me motivated and excited about my work every day.

Could you tell us about your journey in starting and growing Pure Placid?

My journey with Pure Placid began quite modestly—it started as a hobby, making scented gifts for my massage clients. Their enthusiastic requests for more of these products clued me into the fact that I had something special on my hands. Fueled by this encouragement, I ventured into selling my creations at local farmers markets. The response was overwhelming; I would sell out regularly, which was incredibly exciting and fun.

The real turning point came when I transitioned from selling at markets to opening my own store. This expansion allowed me to connect with buyers from larger stores and opened up new opportunities. One of the most pivotal moments in my journey was meeting Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba. After he placed a multimillion-dollar order with Pure Placid, he became my mentor. This endorsement not only boosted my business but also marked the transformation of my small hobby into a real, thriving enterprise. Jack Ma’s guidance and the expansion into wholesale were crucial in shaping Pure Placid into what it is today—a successful business with a profound impact on people’s lives through scent and self-care.

What sets Pure Placid apart from other fragrance companies?

What sets Pure Placid apart from other fragrance companies is our missiondriven approach. We are not just a scent company; we are on a mission to help people claim their calm. Our vision is for a world where people start their day with less stress and more joy. We aim to effect change globally through the power of scent. Our goals are expansive, focusing on positive impact rather than merely competing in the fragrance market. We encourage other companies to embrace the transformative potential of scent to foster a better, more serene world. This ethos of collaboration and societal improvement is at the heart of what makes Pure Placid unique.



“For aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly women ready to embark on the journey of starting their own businesses, your path is one of resilience and determination.”

What is your favorite scent from the Pure Placid collection, and what makes it special to you?

Choosing a favorite scent from the Pure Placid collection is as tough as a mother selecting a favorite child—I love them all! However, there are a couple of scents that hold a deeper meaning for me. Balsam and Clementine was the very first scent I created, inspired by family hikes in the Adirondacks. It represents the start of my journey into crafting fragrances, imbued with memories of nature and togetherness.

Another special scent is Alpine Spice, which was the first fragrance I developed with a professional perfumer. It holds a special place in my heart as it was inspired by the important men in my life. Each scent not only captures unique elements of nature and personal memories but also marks significant milestones in the growth of Pure Placid.

Are there any individuals who have been particularly influential or inspiring to you in your entrepreneurial journey?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a number of influential people guiding and inspiring me. A major source of inspiration has always been my parents, who themselves ran various businesses. Growing up in such an environment, I knew from an early age that entrepreneurship was a viable path for me.

Among the many mentors I’ve had, Jack Ma stands out as the most impactful

on my entrepreneurial journey. I met him when he was serving as the entrepreneurial ambassador for the UN, and he mentored me through a program he initiated aimed at supporting entrepreneurs in rural areas around the world. His guidance was a true game changer for me. He taught me to think much bigger and to see the broader impact that my business could have. Jack Ma’s mentorship not only helped me grow my business but also expanded my vision of what I could achieve as an entrepreneur.

What have been some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a woman entrepreneur?

As a woman entrepreneur, I’ve embraced the perspective that challenges are fundamental to the entrepreneurial experience; they test one’s ability to adapt and overcome. I am grateful for these challenges because they’ve required me to work harder and think smarter, which in turn has made me a better business owner and leader.

One of the greatest challenges I’ve faced has been navigating the fragrance and beauty industry, which, surprisingly, is largely male-dominated. It has always struck me as peculiar that, in a space primarily marketed towards women, many of the key decisions—from product design to marketing—are often made by men. This dynamic has presented its own set of obstacles and has motivated me to carve out a space where women’s insights and preferences drive the industry. Overcoming these hurdles has not only strengthened my resolve but also deepened my

commitment to ensuring that the products we create genuinely resonate with and empower women.

How do you overcome obstacles and stay resilient in the face of challenges?

Overcoming obstacles and staying resilient in the face of challenges are crucial skills for any entrepreneur. A successful entrepreneur often stands on a mountain of failures, each one a lesson that contributes to their growth. The key is to use these failures as a foundation, not as a pitfall that traps you in a cycle of defeat. Embrace the mantra, “make it right and move on.” When challenges arise, address them, learn from them, and then continue forward.

Staying focused on your vision and being clear about your “why” are essential. These elements act as your compass, especially when the path gets tough. Additionally, cultivating a sense of gratitude is vital. Acknowledge the progress you’ve made, and let that recognition fuel your journey ahead. By appreciating where you started and seeing how far you’ve come, you can maintain perspective and motivation. This combination of learning from failures, moving forward, and grounding yourself in gratitude and vision is how you can navigate through adversity and continue to grow both personally and professionally.

Can you share a memorable moment or achievement from your entrepreneurial journey?

A truly memorable moment in my

“ A successful ENTREPRENEUR often stands on a mountain of failures, each one a lesson that contributes to their GROWTH. The key is to use these failures as a FOUNDATION, not as a pitfall that traps you in a cycle of defeat.”
“As a woman entrepreneur, I’ve embraced the perspective that challenges are fundamental to the entrepreneurial experience; they test one’s ability to adapt and overcome.”

entrepreneurial journey was the day I walked into Macy’s and saw Pure Placid products on the shelves. It was surreal to see my creations within such an iconic retail space, especially considering our humble beginnings at a local farmers market. This milestone wasn’t just about reaching a broader audience; it symbolized how far we had come and the potential for even greater reach.

The experience of traveling to 14 different Macy’s stores to promote Pure Placid was both exhilarating and educational. Each visit offered new insights, from understanding diverse consumer needs to mastering the art of retail engagement. It was a testament to the power of passion and perseverance in transforming a small-scale venture into a recognized brand. This journey, filled with countless small steps and significant leaps, continues to inspire and drive our mission forward.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly women looking to start their own businesses?

For aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly women ready to embark on the journey of starting their own businesses, your path is one of resilience and determination. Begin by identifying one small, manageable task that moves you closer to your goal—focus on this task today. Success in entrepreneurship often comes not from grand gestures but from the consistent, small steps you take every day, especially when they go unnoticed.

Remember to pause regularly, breathe, and gather your strength. With each new day, reassess your goals and remind yourself of your potential and the vision you have for your future. Ask yourself how you can serve, and where you see yourself in the long term. Embrace your dreams with a heartfelt ‘yes,’ and commit to being an adventurer in your own life.

Always move forward, step by tiny step, using your courage, heart, and inner strength. And don’t forget to occasionally stop and appreciate how far you’ve come, recognize the support you’ve received, and feel the gratitude for the progress you’ve made. It’s these moments of reflection that often reignite your passion and push you to continue, no matter the challenges ahead. Keep moving, keep dreaming, and let each small step carry you towards your greatest aspirations.

How do you balance running a business with other aspects of your life?

Balancing running a business with other aspects of life has been an evolving lesson for me. I used to believe in the concept of work/life balance, striving to give equal parts of myself to both. However, life has taught me that it’s more about an ebb and flow—sometimes my focus on work means that other parts of my life take a back seat, and at other times, my personal life demands more attention, which might slow down my professional momentum.

I’ve come to embrace this dynamic as a reality of being a woman entrepreneur.

It’s not about giving 100% to everything at once but rather understanding that priorities shift, and that’s okay. I am incredibly grateful for having a supportive family and a dedicated team at work. Their support is crucial in allowing me to thrive both as a business owner and in my personal life. This support network helps me manage the natural fluctuations between my professional and personal commitments, making the journey more manageable and fulfilling.

What strategies do you employ to maintain a sense of calm and balance amidst the demands of entrepreneurship?

To maintain a sense of calm and balance amidst the demands of entrepreneurship, I employ several strategies that support both my physical and mental wellbeing. One powerful tool is the use of scent, which can profoundly influence mood and stress levels. Regular exercise is another cornerstone of my routine, helping to clear the mind and boost energy.

A deep-rooted gratitude practice also plays a crucial role in maintaining perspective and fostering an environment of positivity. Additionally, having coaches and mentors is imperative; they provide guidance, support, and a sense of shared experience that can be incredibly grounding.

Connecting with other entrepreneurs is equally important. Entrepreneurship can often feel isolating, so having a network to share both struggles and

“A major source of inspiration has always been my parents, who themselves ran various businesses.”

victories with is invaluable. Finally, making self-care a priority is essential, even though it can be challenging to find the time. By ensuring that my own needs are met, I’m better equipped to meet the challenges of my business with clarity and resilience.

How do you stay innovative and keep your brand fresh in a competitive market?

To stay innovative and keep my brand fresh in a competitive market, I focus primarily on my mission and the core reasons behind why I started my business. Rather than getting caught up in competition, I concentrate on long-term goals and remain secure in my purpose. This approach allows me to think about how I can better serve my customers and community.

Innovation for me is about improving how I deliver and share my message. It involves continually seeking ways to enhance the experience I offer, ensuring that it aligns with our core values and meets the evolving needs of our customers. By focusing on being better than we were yesterday and striving to serve more effectively tomorrow, we keep our brand dynamic and progressive. This philosophy of competing against our previous achievements, rather than against others, helps maintain our brand’s freshness and relevance in the market.

What do you hope people take away from experiencing Pure Placid products?

I hope that when people experience Pure Placid products, they find a moment to claim their calm and take a break from the everyday stresses of life. Our aim is for each product to serve not just as a part of routine but as an inspirational tool that encourages

Ultimately, the experience should be more than just sensory—it should be transformative, fostering a peaceful and gratified state of mind.

How do you prioritize sustainability and environmental consciousness in your business practices?

In prioritizing sustainability and environmental consciousness in our business practices at Pure Placid, we operate under the belief that success in business comes from achieving a balance of planet, people, and profits. This approach not only aligns with our values but is also essential for long-term viability.

living a life filled with joy and gratitude. By celebrating the connection between people and nature, we want everyone to feel this beautiful interference and embrace it. Additionally, I hope that our products demonstrate how scent can be an incredible tool to help reduce anxiety and enhance overall well-being.

We strive to be sustainable by conserving natural resources, supporting a healthy community and workforce, and maintaining financial stability. My personal passion for the natural environment and my commitment to my family have been the driving forces behind this approach, fueling a fearless pursuit of our vision without compromising our principles.

Sustainability encompasses not just environmental concerns but also social and economic elements. This holistic view ensures that our business practices contribute positively in all these areas, reflecting a deep understanding that everything we do has an impact. The

“Each scent not only captures unique elements of nature and personal memories but also marks significant milestones in the growth of Pure Placid.”

growing consumer awareness around sustainability means that more people are choosing products based on their environmental and social footprint. In today’s market, not committing to sustainability is no longer an option; it is a necessity.

Through this journey, which began with a heartfelt decision to follow my passion, I have learned daily and seen the profound impacts of these practices. By continuously learning and sharing these insights, we not only grow our business but also contribute to a healthier planet and community. This commitment to learning and sharing is fundamental, as it enhances our ability to make informed decisions that benefit both our business and the wider world.

What role do customer feedback and preferences play in shaping Pure Placid’s product offerings?

Customer feedback and preferences play a crucial role in shaping Pure Placid’s product offerings. We are deeply committed to enhancing our customer experience and make it a priority to closely monitor the popularity of our products. This attentive approach means that products not resonating with our customers are often phased out, allowing us to continually refine our offerings based on direct customer input.

Our goal is to serve our customers to the best of our ability, acknowledging that they are the reason we exist. By

listening to their feedback, we ensure that our products not only meet but exceed their expectations, fostering a loyal customer base and continually driving us to innovate and improve. This feedback loop is essential, as it guides our decisions and helps us better align with our customers’ desires and needs.

Can you tell us about any partnerships or collaborations that have been significant for Pure Placid?

Pure Placid has engaged in several meaningful partnerships and collaborations that reflect our commitment to philanthropy and environmental stewardship. One of our most impactful initiatives is our “Candles for Causes” program. Through this program, we create special candles and dedicate the sales to various charities and organizations. This approach allows us to contribute directly to causes we care about while involving our customers in these efforts.

A particularly significant project within this program is the Multiple Sclerosis Candle. This special candle is very close to my heart, and we sell it to raise funds for MS research. Annually, this initiative raises nearly $20,000, contributing significantly towards the search for a cure.

Additionally, we have collaborated with various environmental organizations. These collaborations are designed to support sustainability and promote the conservation of natural resources, aligning with our core values of

environmental consciousness. Each partnership, whether for health, environment, or community support, plays a critical role in expanding our impact beyond just selling products, reinforcing our mission to make a positive difference in the world.

How do you see the fragrance industry evolving in the coming years, and how does Pure Placid fit into that landscape?

The fragrance industry is on a promising path towards greater transparency and a stronger commitment to using safer ingredients. This shift aligns well with growing consumer awareness and demand for products that are not only effective but also ethical and environmentally friendly. As people become more conscious of what they put on and in their bodies, and the impact these products have on the environment, the industry must adapt to meet these expectations.

Pure Placid is ideally positioned to thrive in this evolving landscape. Our commitment to crafting products with safe, sustainable ingredients and transparent practices puts us at the forefront of these changes. We celebrate the natural beauty and therapeutic properties of scent, ensuring that our offerings not only enhance personal well-being but also uphold the highest standards of environmental and ethical responsibility.

As the fragrance industry continues to evolve, Pure Placid will continue to

“We are not just a scent company; we are on a mission to help people claim their calm.”

lead by example, demonstrating that it is possible to deliver high-quality, effective products while also caring for our planet and its people. This approach will likely attract a growing segment of consumers who prioritize health, sustainability, and transparency, securing Pure Placid’s place in the future of fragrances.

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur, and what keeps you motivated?

What I enjoy most about being an entrepreneur is the exhilarating process of transforming an idea into a tangible reality. The ability to serve people and positively affect their lives provides immense satisfaction. Whether it’s creating jobs or developing new products, the impact of these actions is both profound and rewarding.

At the core of my entrepreneurial journey

is my passion for scent, self-care, and inspiring others. These elements are deeply intertwined with my personal and business ethos. My motivation is continually fueled by the mission behind Pure Placid—to not only offer products but also to enhance the well-being of our customers and contribute positively to the community.

This sense of purpose, knowing that my work is much bigger than myself, keeps me driven. Every step forward in this journey reaffirms the impact we can have on the world, making every challenge worthwhile and every success deeply fulfilling.

What legacy do you hope to leave through Pure Placid?

Through Pure Placid, the legacy I hope to leave is one of inspiration and positive impact. I aim for Pure Placid to be a

catalyst for individuals to embrace a life with less stress and anxiety, promoting a lifestyle centered around calm, joy, gratitude, and self-care. The mission of our brand is to empower individuals to claim their calm through the transformative power of scent, utilizing safe and sustainable practices.

By infusing these values into every product and interaction, I hope Pure Placid encourages people not only to take care of themselves but also to appreciate and protect the natural world around them. Ultimately, the legacy I aspire to is making the world a better, more peaceful place, one scent at a time, where individuals feel empowered to manage stress and cultivate well-being in their daily lives.



“We are dedicated not only to rescuing dogs from abuse and rehoming dogs in need; we also lobby to end puppy mills, and for better legislation to protect dogs and stop backyard breeders.”

Can you give us an overview of North Paw Rescue and its mission?

North Paw Rescue helps dogs of all ages and breeds find safe, loving, forever homes. We are dedicated not only to rescuing dogs from abuse and rehoming dogs in need; we also lobby to end puppy mills, and for better legislation to protect dogs and stop backyard breeders. We rescue dogs from all over the country and provide necessary medical care, spaying and neutering, and loving foster care while we search for the right star to guide them home.

What inspired the founding of North Paw Rescue?

Marybeth & Stacy had fostered for many local rescues for years, until they decided it was time to start their own. They knew what worked and what didn’t and really wanted to focus on community and create a loving safe space for not just the dogs we rescue, but for our foster families and volunteers as well.

How do you select the dogs you rescue?

owner surrenders for local dogs in need as well. As long as we have a foster home who is open for a particular dog in need, we never say no!

Can you describe the typical journey a rescued dog goes through with North Paw Rescue?

Most of our dogs travel a long way to get to us. If they are crossing state lines, they are typically on a

We are open to dogs of all ages, breeds, sexes and special needs. We are part of a rescue community who saves dogs from commercial breeding facilities (puppy mills) and the majority of our dogs come from there. We also take in a lot of dogs from down south who are in high-risk euthanasia shelters. We have seen a serious increase in

transport for at least 12 hours, if not a couple of days. They see a veterinarian before crossing state lines to get the appropriate health certificate. They then travel to Rochester, NY to meet up with their foster homes. The dogs are welcomed into their new temporary families where they learn what a dog’s life should be. Many of

them have experienced abuse and/or neglect and require some extra time to decompress. A lot of the dogs have never seen a bed before, ever had a toy, or even been in an actual house. Their journey in rescue is quite remarkable to watch. You never forget the first tail wag or wet nose kiss you get from these dogs. After they come around and are adjusted to a life of love, they are available for adoption. Our fosters screen applicants with veterinary references, home visits and meet and greets. We fully vet all of our dogs, meaning they are spayed/neutered, microchipped, receive the appropriate vaccines like rabies, distemper, parvo, and are given monthly preventatives for flea and heartworm. Once the dog is fully vetted and has chosen their forever home, the adoption is finalized.

What sets North Paw Rescue apart from other dog rescue organizations?

NPR is more than just a rescue organization; it’s a community. One of the most beautiful aspects of rescue is how it brings people together from all walks of life. Whether it’s our fosters bonding at trainings, adopters forming lifelong friendship, or supporters coming together at events, we are united by our shared love for animals. Many of our foster families have even become family with their adopters, sharing holidays and





“We also take in a lot of dogs from down south who are in high-risk euthanasia shelters. We have seen a serious increase in owner surrenders for local dogs in need as well.”

special moments together.

Inclusivity is also at the heart of everything we do at NPR. Our diverse team, led by powerhouse women on our board of directors and leadership team, embodies our dedication and compassion. Our board of directors and leadership team are available for our foster families and volunteers 24/7. They always have someone there for them if they have a question or concern.

At NPR, we live by a simple mantra: settle for nothing less than the best. When a need arises, we don’t hesitate; we act swiftly and decisively. Whether it’s providing an incubator for cleft palate puppies or arranging immediate veterinary care for a sick pup, we spare no expense in ensuring every dog receives the love and care they deserve.

We also allow our foster homes to have a say in who their foster dog gets adopted to. Many rescues have one or two individuals who make the final decision on all of the dogs. We do not believe that is fair to the dog or to the foster family. The foster family knows the dog better than anyone else and knows what would be best for the dog. As leadership, we are there to help guide them and answer any questions they have. It is extremely important to us that our foster families know how valued they

are and that they’re able to sleep at night knowing their foster dog is in the perfect home.

How does North Paw Rescue ensure the well-being and rehabilitation of rescued dogs?

Because we have created such a sense of community, we have actually been sought out by dog trainers and

that is just fine

Can you share a memorable success story of a dog rescued by North Paw?

rehabilitators offering their services to help us out with some of our more difficult cases. We make sure that all dogs are placed in appropriate foster and adoptive homes. Not every dog is a good fit for every home, just as not every home is a good fit for every dog. We also are understanding that some dogs will need to be with us for a longer time than others, and

We have had so many success stories. One of our most notable was Jingle. Jingle was originally brought north from Arkansas to a rescue in NYC. He was adopted and quickly returned. He then spent months in a shelter in NYC and found himself on a transport back to Arkansas. We happened to have dogs coming to us from that same transport, and we took him into our care so he didn’t have to go back. He was with us for 11 months. He was a big boy, a hound mix, but his dedicated foster stuck by him for everything that he needed. When he first came to us he couldn’t walk on a leash, he would pancake to the ground. His foster mom would carry him. Eventually he learned that small dogs, and puppies specifically, were great. He then started to open up more and more. But, he was still a nervous, anxious dog. With love, time, and patience though, he has found his happily ever after.

What are some of the challenges North Paw Rescue faces in its mission?

One of our biggest challenges is having enough foster homes. While we do have more than most, the number of dogs in need is continuing to grow. We hate having to say no to a dog




“Not every dog is a good fit for every home, just as not every home is a good fit for every dog.”

when we don’t have a foster home available.

How can people support North Paw Rescue’s work?

People can foster dogs with no expense whatsoever to them. The rescue pays for EVERYTHING. All supplies, food, veterinary care and preventatives are provided by the rescue. The foster only needs to provide a safe and loving temporary home for the dog.

If you aren’t able to foster, volunteer or adopt. If you aren’t able to do either of those you can donate or spread the word about rescue, and share our posts online!

Are there specific types of dogs or situations that North Paw Rescue specializes in rescuing? If we have an appropriate foster available, we always say yes. We do pride ourselves on taking in special needs dogs who require specific veterinary care and specific types of homes. These dogs are often overlooked or just euthanized because many rescues don’t have the appropriate resources. We take in puppies who are just hours old who suffer from cleft palates or cleft lips and are not able to nurse properly. We tube feed them and provide them with the appropriate

care until they are old enough to eat solids and teach them how to do so appropriately as well. Once they are old enough, we repair their cleft if necessary so that they can live long healthy lives!

We also take in many hospice cases for dogs who are still happy and

of animal care and rescue experience. We are deeply passionate about rescue, and dedicated to providing better living conditions for dogs everywhere. Our board member consists of 4 powerhouse women.

Marybeth (President & Cofounder): Marybeth’s number one passion in life is saving dogs. She has been rescuing dogs since she was a teenager. After working with many local rescues, she and Stacy decided it was time to form their own rescue and North Paw Rescue was born! Marybeth works as an attorney in Rochester, NY fighting for the rights of the indigent and disenfranchised. She has 4 rescue dogs of her own who love teaching foster dogs how to “dog.”

have some life to live, but don’t have long left.

But we truly do take in every type of dog, from designer breeds, to mutts, from owner surrenders, to strays, from young, to old.

Can you tell us about the team behind North Paw Rescue? Each member of our team has decades

Stacy (Vice President & Cofounder & Treasurer): Stacy is the definition of rescue. No matter the species, if an animal is in need of saving, she is the first one there to help. Stacy is a veteran and has 4 rescue dogs who are very lucky to call her mom. She specializes in fostering neonatal puppies with birth defects who require extra love and care.

Jenna (Vice President): Jenna was brought into rescue by association, but quickly became committed to saving as many dogs as she can. She is a sign language interpreter by trade, and coincidentally specializes in fostering dogs with hearing loss. She is always willing to take in a dog who requires extra training and patience. After never having a dog of her own,




“At NPR, we live by a simple mantra: settle for nothing less than the best. When a need arises, we don’t hesitate; we act swiftly and decisively.”

let alone a family dog, she recently foster failed her own rescue dog: a puppy mill reject who was discarded due to a physical defect.

Christina (Secretary): Christina is a hardworking woman and mom who always finds time for rescue in her busy schedule. She was brought into rescue and never turned back. She loves dogs of all sizes and has multiple rescue dogs of her own at home who are the best foster siblings to all the foster dogs who are lucky enough to be fostered by Christina.

We also have a leadership team consisting of 6 women who are extremely ambitious. We can’t imagine our rescue without each of them.

And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the incredible foster homes. Every member of our team from brand new foster to president is a volunteer. They all do this on top of their full time jobs, their families, their other responsibilities. They do it for the dogs.

shaking for days and refusing to eat… to wagging their tail, asking for pets, playing with a toy and running a muck in a yard is so rewarding. We don’t do rescue for thank yous. There is no hero complex in NPR. We do it for the dogs.

How has North Paw Rescue adapted its operations in response to challenges

for both emergencies and routine procedures. We have been lucky enough to create amazing relationships with many local veterinary practitioners and are completely caught up in all of our vetting needs.

Another negative is that people who adopted didn’t take into consideration what life would be life post-pandemic and there has been an extreme increase in owner surrenders.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of rescuing dogs for North Paw Rescue?

Many people say they don’t think they could ever foster a dog because they wouldn’t be able to let them go and they would keep them all. We say “We let our hearts break, so the dog’s heart never has to again.” Watching a dog go from terrified in the corner,

like the COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic had a profound effect on rescue in both positive and negative aspects. First, more people were home, so they were more open to fostering. More people were home, so more people were open to adopting. However, because of that, the veterinary hospitals were extremely backed up and it was almost impossible to get appointments

Are there any upcoming events or initiatives the audience should know about?

We just concluded our first inaugural gala and it was a huge success. Definitely stay tuned for updates on the next one!

We also host adoption events and awareness events regularly at local businesses. Catch us at Pet Friendly in Hilton, at local breweries, local gyms, and more. You can see posts about our upcoming events on our social media accounts, specifically Facebook and Instagram. Both are @northpawrescue.

Looking to the future, what are North Paw Rescue’s goals and aspirations? Our goals are to save as many dogs as we can and continue to educate the public about puppy mills and get them shut down!



“NPR is more than just a rescue organization; it’s a community. One of the most beautiful aspects of rescue is how it brings people together from all walks of life.”



W e a r e d e d i c a t e d t o f i n d i n g

l o v i n g f o r e v e r h o m e s f o r

d o g s o f a l l k i n d s . W e r e s c u e

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s i t u a t i o n s , f r o m o w n e r

s u r r e n d e r s , p u p p y m i l l s ,

l o c a l s h e l t e r s , a n d m o r e .

A s a f o s t e r h o m e , y o u

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W e c o v e r a l l e x p e n s e s ,

s u p p l y n e e d e d i t e m s , a n d

o f f e r s u p p o r t t h r o u g h o u t

t h e p r o c e s s . E a c h a d o p t i o n i n c l u d e s

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R F O S T E R A D O P T A D O P T S T A Y C O N N E C T E D N O R T H P A W R E S C U E H E L P I N G D O G S F I N D T H E I R W A Y H O M E @northpawrescue @northpawrescue @north.paw.rescue
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What inspired the creation of One Soldier at a Time, and how did the organization come into existence?

One Soldier at a Time began in 2006 after hearing the news that one of my Mary Kay sisters had just lost her son serving overseas during the Iraq war. He was slighted to come home in two weeks and he did but not how anyone had imagined or hoped for. He left behind a 5 year daughter and they started a college fund for her and even though I wasn’t making much at the time I wanted to do what I could so I gave 10% of my income that month to put towards the fund. Also, my father was a Navy Veteran who fought in the Korean War and WWII and he loved his country with his whole heart. That instilled a desire for me to do something about the need for our military community. At the same time another friend started a non-profit supporting local moms and wives because of her experience with her son overseas and I thought, Wow!, more people should be doing something like this. That’s when I felt the Holy Spirit say...”why not you?”

affects them. We try to bridge that gap by bringing awareness of the need to support our local military moms and wives, stand with those serving overseas and always remember those who already fought for our Country and the needs of them all.

both. We come alongside them with a beautiful gift, words of encouragement and a handwritten card from a fellow American. We also offer assistance in linking them with other moms and organizations in the area such as Blue Star Moms and ComperrCORPS. We have now grown to sponsoring 300 moms and wives between Christmas, Mother’s day and Valentine’s day.

Could you elaborate on the types of support and assistance that One Soldier at a Time provides to those serving overseas and our hometown Veterans?

What is the primary mission or goal of One Soldier at a Time?

Our mission with One Soldier at a Time is to be the voice for those that are silently carrying the torch for our Country. Most people and to no fault of their own do not intentionally think about what’s going on in the world other than what personally

sponsoring 22 local moms and wives with Valentine’s gifts while their loved ones were serving overseas to give them a sense of closeness with their loved one but also to let them know they mattered , were valued and we saw them as the Hidden Hero of this war. What people tend to forget is the family left behind. Now they have to be both mom and dad and feel like they’re failing in both areas because they were never supposed to be both but now they are called to be

About a year later we started sending sun care packages overseas to local military who were deployed to let them know they were thought of and that they mattered to us. We would send up to 50 packages to each of them so they could distribute to whomever had the greatest need. Many of those deployed feel alone and abandoned and the only family they have is their military family and we wanted them to know we are also their family and someone from home loves them, is praying for them and they are not alone. All communication is kept private unless they specifically request us to share otherwise.

Lastly and most predominantly we stand with our beloved Veterans by providing Hygiene Packages of Hope in 11 surrounding counties. We help Veterans feel and be more confident when they go on a job interview, go



“Gosh, if one in four persons living in Monroe County alone gave $1 we would meet our goal of $175,000. The power of one!”

to work or visit with their family just because now they have one less thing to worry about. We began this project after speaking with so many Veterans who felt like they had no purpose or value to society or their families. They didnt know how to fit in with their family or society. Many Veterans went right from home to the military and now they get out and feel like a fish out of water. Nothing is how it was when they left home and are not sure of what direction to go in, especially coupled with bodily injury and PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many of us struggle with PTSD. I personally was raped at a young age and afterwards I felt like I was dirty and had no worth. I know now that is not true and it is actually the person that did that to me was struggling with their own demons and for me to move forward I had to forgive them. I now walk in full victory and my desire is to help others, especially Veterans move into full victory with their lives. I liken it to if someone offered you a $100 bill with no strings attached you’d take if it were all crumpled up and you found it on the ground would you still want it? Of course you would because it’s still worth $100. That’s the same way it is with anyone suffering with PTSD, their value is still the same they just don’t realize it yet. We need to end the 22 suicides a day of Veterans by coming along side them in any way we can to show them they do have purpose and value because of what they have experienced and who they are. They have qualities that the general public do not have. Such as

knowing how to work as a team in tandem with each other to accomplish a certain goal and keep each other safe. They have a stronger sense of family and dedication and order which is lacking in our community. These packages are just a way of helping them to feel more confident in the process. As a civilian I wouldn’t feel confident if I didn’t have the ability to be clean and presentable. So how can we expect someone who already has multiple strikes against them to feel any different?

I am excited to share that we were able to provide 3000 packages last year and our goal is 3500 this year. We have a long way to go but I am confident with the support of our community rallying together we can make this goal a reality. Gosh, if one in four persons living in Monroe County alone gave $1 we would meet our goal of $175,000. The power of one!

What measures does One Soldier at a Time take to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the families it serves?

Maintaining the privacy of our military community is paramount. When outside groups reach out to us because they would like to send cards or packages overseas but need APO addresses to do so we don’t just give out that information. The first thing we do is vet the organization who has approached us and then we reach out to individuals overseas and garner their permission to share their APO address. Same for our local military moms and wives and our Veterans.

Their privacy is just that, theirs and we have no right to break that trust. They need to know whatever they share with us stays with us. Kind of like Vegas...what happens Vegas stays in Vegas.

How has the community in Webster and surrounding towns responded to the efforts of One Soldier at a Time? As someone who lives in Webster I have to say that folks in Webster and surrounding areas have been amaaaaaazing with their support. From teaming up with us putting packages together, making handmade cards, collecting items for the packages, delivering packages and financial support. I tell everyone we can put your time, talents and treasures to good use. Not everyone has “treasures” but they do have time or talents. We have groups such as Heritage Christian Homes cut out stars from retired USA flags and add a beautiful tribute to all Veterans, The Kessler School helps put packages together and delivers the packages to VA Hospitals and PTSD homes, local schools and scout troops make cards for us and collect items we need for the packages, Jenny Morrill donates her time delivering 100’s of packages to local military moms and wives plus donates products we need for the baskets, Genetaska Club helps collect items we need, makes cards and supports financially, Webster Lions Club/ Camp Smile and Webster American Legion plus Penfield Legion and Walworth Legion also help financially plus the Walworth Legion even helps us at our local event each year by putting up a tent for us.



“We began this project after speaking with so many Veterans who felt like they had no purpose or value to society or their families.”

I mean the list just goes on.

If it weren’t for our fabulous OSAAT committee members I don’t know where we would be. They selflessly give of their time and resources and I am so incredibly grateful for them. Receiving all this support is critical in meeting our goals of sponsoring 300 military moms and wives per year, sending 200-250 sun care packages overseas and sponsoring 3500 Veterans in our area.

Can you share a personal story or experience that exemplifies the impact of One Soldier at a Time on a military family?

When I personally get to witness how our project impacts our military community it just lights the fire within me to keep going and not give up no matter what is going on in my life because at the end of the day they are going through way more than I am. As a military mom I can understand to a certain degree how other military moms feel when their loved one is unable to communicate for lengths of time for the safety and security of all involved. It doesn’t make the situation any easier. One such military mom reached out to us expressing how grateful she was for her 12 days of Christmas basket because this was the 1st year without any communication from her son and she felt so lonely and afraid for him. She shared how broken she felt and that being able to open one gift per day gave her something to look forward to and remember a special time with her son instead of focusing

on the latter. We receive many heartfelt letters and cards sharing very similar experiences and if we can just help stand with one military momma or wife and help her navigate her new normal it is all worthwhile. A little love goes a long way.

In what ways does One Soldier at a Time collaborate with other organizations or entities to fulfill its mission?

Earlier this year we were able to come alongside a few Veterans with different needs. One needed a stationary bike to help with his recovery from knee surgery, another needed a service animal and where to get training for him and yet another needed to be able to get his dog trained as a service animal and boarding during the process and it was such a blessing and and honor to be able to stand in gap and help them make this possible. This was all made possible because of the contacts we have made over the years with businesses that support Veterans and Veteran groups such as Rucksacks and Ridegbacks, Orchard Pups, Sunny Mike, Rochester NY Veterans and ROC Veterans. Between all us working together we were able to meet the needs of these Veterans.

Looking ahead, what do you envision for the future of One Soldier at a Time, both in terms of growth and impact?

With all we have done we have barely scratched the surface of the needs that are out there. In a perfect world and if I could wave a magic wand every need would be met. Since neither of

those exist we need the community to stand with us in different facets. For us to be able to do more we need more. We need more organized space for the items we put in our packages. So if you know of anyone who would be willing to build an addition on the back of our home with shelving and rolling pallets to put totes on that would be fabulous!!! We also need the funds to purchase the items needed or donated if possible so if anyone would like to run a fundraiser for us such as a school or work project that would be such a huge help and we always need our happy volunteers from all walks of life. People can go to our website, www.onesoldieratatime. net to look up current needs.

How can individuals or businesses in the community get involved with or support the work of One Soldier at a Time?

There are so many ways for others to get involved in our mission. From providing items we need for our baskets and packages to helping us assemble them to making heartfelt homemade cards to running fundraisers for us and of course praying for us. I can never forget supporting our upcoming fundraisers will be a huge help in making OSAAT future successful. We are having our 6th Annual Heroes and Hidden Heroes Webster Music Fest which is open to the public, however entry and dinner is free to all Veterans on August 10th at the Webster Fireman’s Field from 3:30pm-9:30 pm. We have 4 fabulous bands including 47 South, Mason Tyler Band, Mother Ship and Hotel California plus food



“What people tend to forget is the family left behind.”

trucks and beverage trucks plus so much more! I am so super psyched about this event. We really want to honor our Veterans, raise awareness and the necessary funds to bolster our future projects. Great thanks goes out to Matt Moreno from Moreno Marketing who has freely offered his skills to collaborate and create this upcoming event.

Others that support us include Lei Ti Campground, Butler and Till, Dino Kay who always Emcee our events, Vital Signs who does all of our Signage, Dawn Nowak Team, Skips of Fairport and On the Ridge who donate all the meats for our event, various Walmart locations and Wegmans who gives so generously to our annual event.

Our most recent event is our Coach Bag gift set that we are currently raffling off in front of Eastway Liquor on Bay Rd in Webster on the weekends until Memorial Day. This Coach gift set is unbelievable! Includes a beautiful Coach Willow Shoulder Bag, Coach Greyson White Watch, Signature Two-Toned Bangle Bracelet, Tortoise Aviator Sunglasses, a $40 Eastway gift certificate and Spirits. Tickets can also be purchased through venmo (@onesoldieratatimeusa), paypal ( ) or our website ( www.onesoldieratatime. net ) up until May 26th.

Lauren, could you tell us about your background and what led you to become involved in supporting military families?

My Dad was a Navy Veteran and was my earliest exposure to the needs of our

military and he instilled a sense of pride in being an American and that we can all do something to support those who have signed on the dotted line up to and including their lives to serve our Country. The one thing that stood out to me is that we are all created equal and that we should treat others that way in turn. We should all be treated with respect and dignity. There’s a song I absolutely love and one of the last lines is ,” And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.” I believe that says it all in how we should treat each other.

I personally believe that every experience we have had helps to shape us to become the best version of ourselves and to have compassion for others.

My background was in management for over 20 years with various companies but mostly in the convenience store industry and my husband Brian of 23 years and I share 6 children from 26 years old to 36. We are empty nesters

now and loving it ,although we cherish the time with our kids and visiting my 94 year old Mother in Love. Our kids have all found their niche in life and we are proud of them. They all have different careers from being in the landscape business to owning their own carpet business to being a police officer with Brighton PD. Our greatest joy is knowing they are happy where they are at and building their own lives and writing their own legacies.

When I started at Mary Kay 23 years ago I was so unsure of myself, I didn’t really wear makeup and I had no idea what a skin care routine was and could barely talk myself out of a wet paper bag let alone talk to someone about their skincare needs. I was too focused on myself than others but as I grew in my craft I also grew in being others focused instead of self focused and it was all about them and how I could find their need and fill it. Whether it was a new look, the skin care solution they had been searching for or just someone who cared to listen to them. My clients became my friends and we have been doing life together ever since. I also gained such amazing, uplifting and positive Mary Kay friends which honestly is the greatest gift of all in my journey other than being able to raise my children from home. Through Mary Kay I gained the confidence to create One Soldier at a Time, once again knowing it’s not about me but those I get to serve. My ongoing commitment is to give 10% of my income so as to not profit from this project. That amount started small but has grown and I’m so full of joy to be able to do so.



“Our mission with One Soldier at a Time is to be the voice for those that are silently carrying the torch for our Country.”

My husband Brian has been a huge source of support throughout the years. Since OSAAT inception we weathered the storm of me being so ill I was confined to a chair for almost 4 months and only found out 10 years later it was all from Lymes Disease. The loss of both my parents and inbetween had 2 neck surgeries and other health issues, then 3 years ago when I was T-Boned and have incurred another neck, back, arm and hand surgery, but the clincher was almost 2 years ago when my Navy son was hit by semi-truck while on his motorcycle and they said he’d be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. I refused to believe that and told the Dr. ‘s and nurses he would walk, run and dance and thanks to God my son is walking and working on his recovery every day since. Phew.... but God was with us the entire time

and my husband stood by side and helped me. whether it was bringing boxes downstairs to be inventoried, brought up to be put into packages, delivered to multiple locations or just meeting someone at the door to accept cards, clothing or hygiene items. The list seriously goes on. Most people know me as the face of One Soldier at a Time but my husband does so much behind the scenes. I could not do this if it weren’t for him. He is my rock!

What are some of the long-term goals or aspirations that One Soldier at a Time hopes to achieve?

In closing, my heart’s desire is to continue serving our military community for as long as they’ll have me and bring others along with me who have a heart for our military. I have a dream where every Veteran will be healed and whole and know

their worth and end 22 suicides a day. I am beyond grateful for everyone who has come into my life to stand with us in one way or another. Young or old, rich or poor, abled or disabled every single person who has been on this journey with us has helped to make the impact we have made till this day. Thank you to you all! You are the culmination of One Soldier at a Time.






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Can you share a bit about yourself and your background, including how you got involved in advocacy against stalking?

I am a Syracuse native and a proud Italian-American woman. From a young age, I knew I wanted a career where I could help people; in high school, I decided I’d like to have a private therapy practice one day. That led me to attend the University of Rochester where I earned my B.A. in psychology and my M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Twelve years ago, I was taking a break from my gradute program when I found out someone I thought was my friend was stalking me. There’s a lot to the story, but the main crime they committed was attaching a global positioning system (GPS) to my car to track where I was going.

For my and others’ safety, I left my home, housemates, jobs, and I postponed my return to school. I moved back in with my parents in Syracuse. I had never been educated on the dangers of stalking, all of the forms it can take, or what to do in that situation; neither I nor my family knew how to most effectively protect my safety and rights. Even though my university and the district attorney’s office guided me through the disciplinary hearing process and court proceedings, it was still an incredibly confusing, scary, uncertain, and tumultuous time in my life. The offender eventually moved away, and I decided to return and finish my degree.

Upon re-entering graduate school, I wanted to learn more about stalking, so I focused my Master’s project paper on the topic, titled “Adolescent Stalking Awareness and Prevention: Guidelines for Marriage and Family Therapists”. I discovered that stalking was heavily under-researched, under-trained, and under-resourced. It’s been almost ten years since I wrote that paper, and the support and resources available for stalking victims are still few and far between. One year ago, I decided to fully

own story, my healing journey, and how I went from a stalking statistic to an empowered entrepreneur.

Besides educating and speaking, what other activities or hobbies do you enjoy in your free time?

commit to what I believe is meant to be my life’s work as a ‘survivor-to-thriver’ of stalking: providing our communities with educational resources and training on stalking awareness and prevention, and sharing my story. My business, Breaking Stalking, offers a variety of tailored, hour-long introductory awareness/prevention presentations, 2-3 hour in-depth workshops, and inspirational talks where I share my

I was a theater stage manager (SM) throughout high school and college. When I returned to Syracuse after completing graduate school, I connected with the local retro lifestyle/pinup community, participating in photo shoots and pinup contests. That led me to get involved as a SM in the CNY area and, most recently, I’ve had an amazing time as the on-stage host of burlesque and variety shows featuring local and visiting artists. Communities I’ve had the honor of emceeing and stage managing for include Salt City Burlesque, Machina Productions, and Go Jo Productions. Central New York is home to many fantastic local artists, dancers, and creatives and I love being part of that world. It allows me to flex my production skills and, when I host shows, to get onstage, show a different side of myself, and have a lot of silly fun! I also enjoy playing tennis, feeding squirrels, and traveling with my partner. If I have the chance to get on a horse, boat, motorcycle, snowmobile, or ski doo, I take it! Last year, I rode a horse on a California beach – a dream come true!

What challenges have you encountered in raising awareness about stalking, and how have you addressed them?



“While I believe every person can benefit from being educated on stalking, I’m currently prioritizing reaching university and high school students, staff, and faculty, as well as law enforcement and victim service agencies.”

I am grateful that many individuals I speak with, whether from the beginning of our conversation or after I’ve provided more insight, recognize the importance of stalking awareness and education. I have encountered the occasional person who will remark, “Oh wow, that’s something that happens?” I think this reinforces the fact that many people don’t recognize stalking in its many forms, and are also unaware that it is a crime (in all 50 states!) Additionally, there are many pressing societal issues in need of attention, and stalking is often an afterthought. Our society tends to be very responsive to physical, incident-based occurrences.

While it’s important to respond to physical and sexual violence, we need to remember the more subtle crime of stalking may be co-occurring with these offenses and they can also cause severe mental and emotional trauma. The media also poses challenges. Stalking behaviors are often portrayed in movies and TV as romantic, funny, heroic, and sometimes desirable. Audiences don’t always know the behaviors portrayed are considered stalking because they go unnamed as such and are misrepresented. Instead of realizing the dangers of stalking, people end up relating to the ‘fantasy’ of stalking, which is harmful to both victims, and the people entrusted to help victims. The first step to address these challenges is revealing the truth by raising awareness and fixing the misconceptions. I achieve this by offering educational presentations and workshops, cultivating a strong community and social media presence, and sharing my life experiences.

Could you elaborate on how you initiated workshops focusing on

stalking awareness, particularly within educational and community settings?

Most people don’t think about stalking daily unless they have experienced it or are in a related field. When I decided to pursue this work full-time, it was important to raise awareness and talk about my mission at professional events and in my personal life. This past January was the 20th anniversary of National Stalking Awareness Month, which I marked with a business launch event where I curated a safe space for community organizations, stakeholders, friends, and family. I provided basic stalking awareness education; we talked about how stalking is greatly overlooked, and the difficulties stalking poses to both victims and institutions. That is one example of outreach to build engagement, to learn what local communities and organizations need, and to share why this work is so important. While I believe every person can benefit from being educated on stalking, I’m currently prioritizing reaching university and high school students, staff, and faculty, as well as law enforcement and victim service agencies. However, I would present at any organization or community ready to commit to this work!

How do you tailor your workshops and presentations to different audiences, such as students, educators, and community groups?

It’s important to build relationships and understand what needs, difficulties, and experiences a community or organization might encounter. In my initial consultation, I let people know what I can offer, and how I tailor it, and ask if there’s anything in particular they are looking for. For my college student

audiences, I delve into stalking-related statistics, information, and case studies surrounding college campuses and their peer group. Recently, I presented at a Superintendent’s Conference at a local Central New York school district – I included research studies and statistics around adolescent stalking. I had a separate session with school counselors and we had a thought-provoking discussion on how stalking is viewed by students and the difficulties when trying to respond to stalking in schools. For all sessions, I offered some stalking response protocols that schools could begin to incorporate into their existing codes of conduct. The most important thing is to realize that, at the moment, there are no response protocol templates for high schools. Offering this awareness and prevention training was the first step in creating a response system for a school. There is still so much work to be done, much of it for the very first time!

Can you share a memorable experience from one of your workshops or conferences that had a significant impact on attendees?

Depending on the audience and timeframe I’m given, I will share a condensed version of my experience as a stalking victim. I think this always impacts attendees – especially students – as I see people’s responses every time I disclose that a GPS tracker was put on my car. I think it shocks them, but the lasting impression is that stalking is indeed real and happens to millions of people across the nation every day, and more so, some survivors emerge from the experience with the newfound goal of helping others. I was recently invited




“One year ago, I decided to fully commit to what I believe is meant to be my life’s work as a ‘survivor-to-thriver’ of stalking: providing our communities with educational resources and training on stalking awareness and prevention, and sharing my story.”

to speak at Syracuse University for students taking a business presentation class. After I showed a children’s cartoon that purposefully depicted stalking humorously, one student commented that they wouldn’t have thought any of the behaviors were considered stalking if it wasn’t for my presentation. That was incredibly memorable – hopefully for the attendees, but also me – because it reinforced the idea that media outlets depict stalking in ways that obscure its nature and harm. More importantly, the student’s comment affirmed that bringing this awareness education is positively impacting communities and people are learning new information about personal safety and how to recognize stalking.

What advice would you give to someone who suspects they are being stalked or knows someone who is experiencing stalking?

It’s important to know that responding to stalking will look different depending on the context. Every stalking situation is unique in regards to location, who the victims and offenders are, and other factors. This may necessitate different prevention tactics and courses of action. The condensed general best practices below are not an exhaustive list of responses, nor must they be implemented in this exact order.

-Tell someone you trust

-Contact a local or national victim service agency for support

-Tell the offender once that you do not want any contact

-Stop contact with the offender

-Document all stalking behaviors

-Report to police

-Make a safety plan and continue to

evolve it

-Install a security system and cameras if necessary

-Obtain an order of protection

So many stalking victims are not believed or assisted. If someone discloses to you that they’re being stalked, it’s always key to start by believing them, even if they don’t initially use the term stalking, but have concerns about someone’s behavior towards them. Say things like ‘I believe you,’ ‘I’m here for you,’ and validate their concerns in a nonjudgmental way. Remind the victim that it’s not their fault, and avoid questioning why the victim did or didn’t do certain things. If you feel comfortable, offer to be with them when they call or go to support services or law enforcement. Of course, never share any of the victim’s information with the stalker. It can be helpful to ask who else the victim has confided in and respect the victim’s choices regarding sharing the situation with others. Continue to check in with the victim, as needs, feelings, and the situation can change over time.

In your opinion, what are some effective strategies for preventing stalking and supporting survivors?

It’s important to realize that we cannot always predict human behaviors and therefore, it can be difficult to fully prevent stalking crimes before they start. I named my business Breaking Stalking because I believe we will never eradicate the crime of stalking, but we can break it when it rears its head! In my opinion, true prevention would start before the age of 10, when we teach all children age-appropriate lessons about consent, proper boundaries, healthy relationships,

and how to treat others with respect. In terms of supporting survivors, if someone speaks out, it’s important to listen to them and believe their experiences. Even if a stalking situation ends, many people continue to suffer from depression, anxiety, fear, and PTSD. As a trained therapist, I encourage survivors to seek therapy from a licensed practitioner. Additionally, most of our communities lack support groups specifically for victims of stalking. Here in Central New York I am initiating the process to offer a group of this nature to provide continued support for survivors who may still feel the effects of this victimization.

How can communities and institutions, such as schools and workplaces, better address and respond to incidents of stalking?

Too often many people lose their jobs or voluntarily leave (work, school, their homes) due to the severity of stalking. This is why it’s important to build a coordinated community response around this crime where institutions, law enforcement, advocates, attorneys, and the court system all recognize the detrimental effects of stalking, take it seriously, and respond appropriately. This is where providing education directly to all institutions, including staff, students, and administration is key so people can fully understand the subtleties, nuances, and dangers of this crime. After that, it’s important to ensure victims are believed and supported. Responding to stalking at a high school may look different than at a major corporation, but working stalking response protocols into codes of conduct and employee handbooks can be a start. If an issue emerges, security measures often include monitoring



“Additionally, I embarked on my healing journey years ago which involved writing, finding community, and connecting with other survivors.”

visitors, utilizing security guards, and circulating photos of the offender. However, responses may differ if the stalking occurs between two people at the same institution, which can have complications; that’s also where bringing in an outside consultant can be helpful. In addition to supporting victims, offenders must be held accountable for their actions, with the greater goal of preventing re-offense.

What role do you believe technology plays in stalking incidents, and how can individuals protect themselves from cyberstalking?

Technology can play a vast role in stalking and sadly has made it easier for people to track others. In the field, we often use the phrase technology-facilitated stalking which encompasses stalking tactics on the internet (cyberstalking) and surveillance through devices. These devices can include global positioning systems, cameras, audio recording devices, keystroke loggers, and software that can be installed on phones and computers. As a general rule, don’t share personal information online, only accept friend requests from people you know, utilize two-factor authentication, use secure passwords that you change often, don’t leave others alone with your devices, never download anything you don’t recognize, and adjust your smartphone settings to not automatically share your location. Additionally, you can remove your personal information from many websites such as white pages, fast people search, and fast background check by navigating to their privacy policy, suppression center, or data privacy center and following the instructions given. For more information and if

you think you’re being monitored by a device, I recommend visiting www. - they are an excellent resource.

Have you noticed any specific trends or changes in stalking behaviors over the years, particularly with the rise of social media and online communication platforms?

Nowadays research shows that most people who stalk are doing so both in person and via technology. The internet can be a very dark place where bullying, impersonating, doxxing, and spreading rumors about others can take placeall of these behaviors can constitute a ‘course of conduct’ of stalking. Due to being able to connect with people all over the world, I think the ability to negatively target others has expanded beyond all comprehension. There are many stalking cases where (known and unknown!) offenders have interfered in people’s lives so severely that it has completely decimated their reputations, finances, businesses, and relationships. Stalking can take a very dark turn, and sadly, if someone decides to anonymously stalk using online platforms, it can be difficult to intervene. However, there are cases where online stalkers have been brought to justice. The most important thing is to follow some of the aforementioned online and in-person safety practices in this article and seek outside support.

What resources or support networks do you recommend for individuals who are seeking help or guidance in dealing with stalking situations? As previously mentioned, stalking is very under-resourced - I hope one

day that we can establish specific stalking victim service agencies in all communities. I offer several resources on my website, www.breakingstalking. com including some of the top national organizations that offer phone and chat helplines for victims of all crimes. Also linked on my website, although they do not help victims directly, are the Stalking Prevention Awareness Resource Center (SPARC) and Stop Stalking Us which have information for victims, advocates, and service providers. I also recommend that people build their support networks. Don’t be ashamed or hesitant to tell friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors if you’re experiencing a stalking situation. The more they know the situation, the more they can also look out for you, observe the surroundings, and potentially help.

How do you stay informed about the latest developments and research in the field of stalking prevention and victim support?

I network with others working in antistalking or related fields through virtual and live conferences and events. It’s a small cohort of folx and organizations specifically focusing on anti-stalking advocacy, so we are familiar with one another and stay up to date on the latest by sharing resources, news, and research. I am so grateful to have recently been awarded a scholarship to attend the National Organization for Victim Advocacy Conference in Washington, DC in late July. I’m looking forward to increasing my knowledge and abilities around victim advocacy for those affected by stalking, and other forms of relationship violence.



“My love of helping, educating, and wanting our communities to be proactively equipped with the knowledge I never had is incredibly motivating.”

How do you balance the emotional toll of advocating for stalking victims while also taking care of your own well-being?

A lot of chocolate and feeding peanuts to squirrels! While doing this work brings up memories of my situation, the fact that it happened over 10 years ago gives me distance from it. Additionally, I embarked on my healing journey years ago which involved writing, finding community, and connecting with other survivors. I knew the stalking was not my fault and I never let it define me, it was just something that happened. However, when I start to feel the emotional toll, I remind myself that I’m doing this to help educate our communities so that if stalking does happen to someone else they can be equipped with the education and resources I never had. I incorporate movement, breathing, reading, and proper nutrition and hydration into each day. I get into nature, make conscious time with my partner, and take advantage of travel opportunities. Sometimes my father will use the phrase “in time,” meaning everything happens in the time it’s supposed to. He’s right, and

that reminds me not to put too much pressure on myself as a new business owner. Of course, I take action on my goals daily, but I do so one step at a time as I progress in all areas of my life.

What are your future goals and aspirations in terms of your advocacy work against stalking?

I’m focused on reaching as many organizations as possible across New York State, and eventually nationwide. Earlier this year I presented at the Northeast Greek Leadership Association Conference in Connecticut; a great start to expanding this work outside of Central New York. Here in the United States, there is no national help hotline specifically for victims of stalking. In the years to come, I hope to start a hotline as a non-profit to ensure all victims of stalking, whether or not they were in a romantic relationship with the offender, have access to high-quality information, resources, and most importantly, people who have been trained to understand stalking and offer proper support. One day I would also love to initiate an international coalition of anti-stalking

agencies, where organizations from all over the globe focused on stalking prevention can unite to share resources, research, and gather in solidarity around the work they do.

Finally, what motivates and drives you to continue your work in raising awareness and providing support for stalking victims?

Almost every time I speak/table at an event, share my mission or tell people what I do, someone discloses to me that they or someone close to them has experienced stalking. Many people don’t realize it’s happening all around them. My love of helping, educating, and wanting our communities to be proactively equipped with the knowledge I never had is incredibly motivating. There needs to be more education in our school systems, universities, businesses, and our society in general. Knowing that I am one of the few people providing this service and filling that gap is incredibly rewarding and pushes me to keep going. I believe that EDUCATED and EMPOWERED WE can BREAK STALKING!

Let’s connect so I can teach you how to Break Stalking! s t e f a n i a @ b r e a k i n g s t a l k i n g . c o m M.S. MFT ~ Public Speaker ~ Survivor to Thriver STEFANIA IANNO ~ Presentations ~ Workshops ~ Motivational speeches
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Tell us a little bit about your background, and what made you decide to create this unique business in your hometown, Jim Cecere. I was born and raised in Geneva, attending both Geneva High and DeSales. I also graduated from Hobart, so really am a product of Geneva. I decided to pursue a career in finance post college, so I settled in NYC, where I joined JP Morgan, and had a career spanning 25 years across a range of banks and asset managers. I launched my own financial services company back in 2007, but ran into “the Great Recession”, and had to shut it down after about 2 years. My career centered around helping clients, building products, solving problems, and even starting new businesses. The one thing that was lacking was a sense of giving back to the community. Sure I volunteered and also was involved in a range of organizations, but I felt as though I was missing something.

I quit, as I wanted to spend some time thinking about who I am and what I’m all about, especially as I felt I was young enough to do so. So after about 6 months of a few small start-ups and also going through a bit of “corporate withdrawal”, it struck me that what I was looking for was right where I grew up. The perspective I had after all of that time in big cities, and around the world, was that Geneva and the Finger Lakes had so much going for it. And so much opportunity for me to do things that could help promote our community and give back to the people of our community. So my first

idea was around supporting all things locally made, which was the genesis of Finger Lakes Goods. It’s in this shop that we have a quaint, comfortable, enjoyable experience for customers to peruse and purchase locally made or locally sourced items. And they can also purchase them on-line. The idea was bringing together as many of locally made brands as possible into a central location. Vinifera was also about this,

as we are sitting in one of the biggest wine regions in the US. And it’s growing in stature. It’s phenomenal that almost every winery here is still family owned and operated. So the same principal applied - how do I support the wine industry. And also be a part of it! I also started a winery in the process, and our first vintage comes out this year! From this, Vinifera was born and also an idea of how to give people an amazing experience. Hence not only a wine shop and cafe, but a speakeasy!

Also born out of this is the Linden Wine Series, which is entering its third year. This is a series of 5 events spread across the warmer months whereby we have a theme, and will host 8-10 wineries on Linden Street for a “Grand Tasting”. It also includes live music, games, drawings, a gift bag, and also gives back as proceeds are donated to charitable organizations which promote a clean, sustainable environment in the Finger Lakes. This year is special, as we are launching our first Oktoberfest. We are including the craft brewers for a first of its kind event in Geneva, with every participant getting a beer stein and more! Finally, Pastel was a bit of an accident. The cookies made by the Finger Lakes Cookie company were not only delicious, but a top seller. When Lori, the founder, told me she wanted to move on, we entered an arrangement whereby I took it over and created what is now called Pastel. Located in Victor, this baked from scratch cookie sits with a range of new pastries, cupcakes, cake pops and more. And the design of the shop is fun and whimsical, giving people a tremendous experience.

What sets Vinifera apart from other wine establishments in the Finger Lakes region?

I think firstly that it truly represents the wineries of the Finger Lakes. We have about 40 wineries in our shop, which is about our capacity, and are always revolving in new wineries so our customers can experience them. We house the broadest selection of wines

“You see a “Great Gatsby” theme, yet filled with European art. And want better fun than to have the concept that epitomizes the new world during prohibition - a speakeasy!”

in our wine shop, and also exclusively feature the wines of the Finger Lakes on our menu. Because we also have a Speakeasy, we wanted to further represent other terrific products from NYS, so we have a range of curated cocktails and craft beers from producers. It’s all local! I think we are the only ones who can say that in the Finger Lakes, or in New York for that matter. We also produce our own wine! We’ve been working on it for about 3 years, and will be releasing our first vintage this year. We are very excited!

Can you tell us about the concept behind Vinifera’s exclusive underground Speakeasy?

I think it’s first important to understand how this almost wasn’t. And what a risk it was to achieve that was a concept.

It was all due to a few bricks. Honest. I was in the basement, and it was a dirt floor and full of old stuff. The lighting was a bulb hanging from a wire. I happen to see a few exposed bricks on the side of the wall. When I brushed away some of the dirt and coal dust (it was a storage area for coal back in the 1800’s!), I saw more beautiful brick from the original construction. I took a risk and we pulled out all of the junk and what we saw was a raw space with a ton of potential. And a vision of tables, dim lights, cool art, and special touches that would be people and experience they couldn’t find anywhere else.

However, tt was a huge risk as it flooded and, well, stunk. At any point over the 6 months it took to fix the plumbing, put concrete on the floor, update the electric, and get approval from Code

Enforcement, it could have shut down. And it seemed like it would be shut down a few more times that I’d like to admit.

The concept of an experience for people unlike any other in our region continued to drive me forward. It’s about bringing people into a beautiful wine salon and cafe, only to be shown to a “secret door”, which then leads you to a flight of stairs. At the end of those stairs, you leave Geneva and the Finger Lakes, and are transported into a stylish, cozy, cool vibe that invites you to relax and enjoy the conversation of those you are with. And to make new friends. People are surrounded but cool art, sultry lighting, comfortable seats, and a great menu. We work with our bakery and others to prepare for us terrific lite fare options, and a menu featuring Finger Lakes wines, craft cocktails with NYS spirits, and craft beers made by local brewers. There’s yet to be a person who says they’ve seen anything like it out of the big cities.

How does Vinifera incorporate the ambiance of a Speakeasy with its wine salon experience? How does Vinifera aim to transport its guests to another time and place through its ambiance and offerings?

There’s a direct connection and it’s a part of the story I like to tell to people when they visit. Vinifera, or Vitis Vinifera, is the classification system for grape varietals. Vinifera varietals are often referred to as “the mother of all grapes” for popular wines. Think Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot. Whether in the Finger Lakes, California, Oregon, or France, these are typically the most celebrated varietals. However, it’s noted

that these varietals are not native to the US. Rather, they are mainly from Europe. We imported the vines here and now grow them to produce our excellent wines.

The design, therefore, of the Wine Salon and Cafe is the concept of “old world meeting new”. You see a “Great Gatsby” theme, yet filled with European art. And want better fun than to have the concept that epitomizes the new world during prohibition - a speakeasy! So entering through ha secret door, people are transported to a speakeasy full of original, turn of the century look and feel driven by the exposed brick, limestone, and other materials. The walls have both cool pictures, and also European art further connecting the two sections. They are both related, but fully different vibes.

What inspired the creation of Vinifera, the Finger Lakes’ first and only Speakeasy along with a wine shop and salon?

This goes back to supporting something local, and also recognizing that the wine industry in the Finger Lakes continues to excel. It’s a boutique wine region, steadily gaining notoriety. The families who have dedicated themselves to generations of winemaking here continue to produce amazing wine, while we are also welcoming new, skilled winemakers and farmers from around the world to produce their wines. The idea of creating something that brings forward this persona into a single location was my inspiration, as each wine label instills an emotion given the family and history each brings to the shop.

“When I brushed away some of the dirt and coal dust (it was a storage area for coal back in the 1800’s!), I saw more beautiful brick from the original construction.”

Could you share some details about the selection process for the premium and rare wines featured at Vinifera?

I’m fortunate enough that my partner in life, Kevin San Jose, is also an important part of this business. Not only is he the driving force behind the design and continued evolution of our experience, he’s a Certified Sommelier and a WSET Level 4. In layman’s terms, this means he’s an expert. We spend a lot of time together meeting with wineries and selecting the varietals which end up in the shop. What’s important to us in not only the quality of the wine we end up offering in our shop, it’s the story of the winery itself. We infuse that into our narrative, and promote them in both our shop and on our social media.

What can visitors expect when they step into Vinifera’s underground Speakeasy for the first time?

Usually there’s a gasp. And maybe a wide-eyed moment. I don’t say this out of confidence or arrogance. Rather, out of sheer joy as people don’t know what they are walking into and it immediately causes them to smile and want to sit to enjoy themselves.

Can you describe the experience of enjoying a glass of Finger Lakes wine or a curated cocktail at Vinifera? We take our time with the preparation of any item ordered by a customer. We want to get it right. We spend some time talking about the wine, its history and characteristics. Also connecting it with the story of the vineyard. As for our cocktails, they are all curated and

take a few minutes to make. Whether it’s a martini, the bees knees, or our fun seasonal line, they are all made to order. We always tell our customers it takes a few extra minutes for us to prepare an order as we put so much care into it.

What makes Vinifera a premier

of our region. We want people to walk out with a “wow” factor, and that the ambience and excellence in our wines, cocktails, beer, and food also combine for a memorable moment for their time visiting or to be appreciated as a gem for those who live here.

I’m extremely humbled to say that we increasingly get people here as a destination from all over our region, or even further. We had a couple drive 5 hours from Canada to spend an evening in the Speakeasy, and left with a case of Finger Lakes wine. And our street and city also represent a terrific opportunity for people to shop, drink, and dine. Also, we have regulars from Rochester, Syracuse, and Ithaca who come to Geneva not only for the Speakeasy, but also to eat at any one of the fine eating establishments around us. We are a part of the fabric of this community, and so long as we do our part, the strength of this community continues to attract people to our little town.

destination in the finger lakes and beyond?

All of us at the shop are proud of Vinifera and the Finger Lakes. And it shows not only with the design, but most importantly in the detail. Every piece of art, every seat, every light is constructed with the thought of a phenomenal experience that represents our region. And is a good ambassador

How does Vinifera cater to various occasions, whether it’s a romantic evening, a gathering of friends, or a professional outing?

We actually are well suited for each of these occasions. We’ve been host to marriage proposals, date nights, and intimate gatherings of friends. We also rent out of space for those special celebrations, whether it’s birthdays, weddings, or engagements. And we’ve

“It’s about bringing people into a beautiful wine salon and cafe, only to be shown to a “secret door”, which then leads you to a flight of stairs.”

had a number of companies here with staff and/or clients to enjoy a unique outing. And, when we can combine inside an outdoor seating, it makes it even more unique.

Could you highlight some of the signature cocktails or wine flights available at Vinifera? In what ways does Vinifera encourage guests to explore and expand their palate while enjoying their time at the wine salon?

For wines, we offer multiple options, ranging from red to white to mixed. From sweet to dry. Our most fun, though, is the blind flight. We chat with the customer a bit, and then curate a blind flight for them to enjoy. This is where the true learning comes into play. Customers often come in with an understanding of what they like, but also an openness to challenge that as they want to learn more. The cool climate wines we have here often introduce new wine varietals, such as Saparavi, Rhaksetelli, Blaufrankish, and others. And, how well known varietals do here is also different than from a warm climate wine region. So often people who don’t like Chardonnay love them here! It’s a lot of fun and people walk away knowing a little more about Finger Lakes wines and their own preferences.

The curate cocktails is a lot of fun. Our current menu features the Wolf of Wall Street, which is a rye Manhattan with Hudson Rye, Faccia Bruto Centerbe Amaro and Method sweet vermouth. Our Blinded Me with Science is a clarified whiskey sour

that features our own red wine caviar, which is completely unique. We also love our classics, as we create a gin martini or old fashioned using locally made spirits. It’s a new experience for many, and almost all walk away with a newfound appreciation for NYS spirits.

What role does live jazz music play in enhancing the atmosphere at Vinifera?

We’ve worked at this for awhile, and our space downstairs is very difficult for any band. So we have an amazing lineup of music that we place throughout the Speakeasy and Wine Salon/Cafe. The summer brings live music every weekend outdoors, however, where we have seating as people can enjoy our drinks, lite fare, the beautiful summer night on a street closed to traffic and adorned with people eating, drinking, and enjoying themselves.

Can you elaborate on the selection and presentation of charcuterie and dessert boards at Vinifera?

Our menu continues to evolve and change, as we feature locally made cheeses and meats. We work with local producers to bring forth tastes that complement our range of drink options. Our menu also features a range of food items prepared by local chefs or establishments such as Pastel, in which we prepare elegant and tasty choices for clientele. Our desserts are of particular pride, as they are each made by our bakery, Pastel. The cheesecake is made from scratch, as are the Italian tarts, cookies, cupcakes, and more. People are often

surprised at the range of food options and appreciative of the quality.

What efforts does Vinifera make to ensure guests have a memorable and personalized experience during their visit?

From the moment they enter the establishment, they are exposed to the welcoming design of the wine salon and cafe, and almost always take a picture of themselves with our Finger Lakes mural in the background. Once they are brought to their seats, and more pictures taken of themselves, they are presented with a professional and personalized experience, a curated selection of foods and drinks, and are never rushed. We space out the seating so people get the attention they deserve for an experience such as this.

Are there any upcoming events or special tastings that guests should be aware of at Vinifera?

The Linden Wine Series kicks off on June 1, where we have a “grand tasting” on all of Linden Street. Live music, lite fare, specials at each of the bars and restaurants, and around 10 wineries will be a terrific experience! We sell “passports” to the event, and for a nominal fee, people get to taste a wide range of Finger Lakes Wines, as well as get the entertainment on the street. And, they get a fun gift bag an commemorative wine glass. It’s really a fun event, and we have 5 of them throughout the warmer months. Check out lindenwineseries. com for more information and to get a passport.


“Because we also have a Speakeasy, we wanted to further represent other terrific products from NYS, so we have a range of curated cocktails and craft beers from producers. It’s all local!”

How does Vinifera contribute to promoting and showcasing the wines of the Finger Lakes region? You can probably get a sense of this from the earlier questions, whereby we feature blind flights and talk to customers about the Finger Lakes wineries, the people who make these wines, and the distinct features of the Finger Lakes. We also have an

active social media platform in which we promote the wines and Finger Lakes region. Often people come to our site to see what the Finger Lakes wine region is all about.

We were also honored this past year by Wine Enthusiast magazine and named to their Future 40. This global recognition put the Finger Lakes and our efforts in the spotlight, highlighting not only what we are doing, but how the Finger Lakes wine and beverage industry continues to evolve. We are humbled and proud of this recognition, and are so glad that it continues to bring attention to what is happening here in the Finger Lakes.

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Ruff Day Resort: Where Every Pup Finds a Home Away From Home

In the heart of suburban bliss lies a haven for our four-legged friends: Ruff Day Resort. Nestled within the vibrant community, this canine paradise isn’t just a boarding facility; it’s a second home for dogs of all sizes, shapes, and personalities. At the helm of this bustling business is Amy P. Holtz, a woman whose passion for dogs sparked a journey that transformed her life and the lives of countless furry companions.

Ruff Day Resort’s story began over a decade ago when Amy, a seasoned dog trainer, felt the need for a space where dogs could frolic, learn, and relax in an environment that mirrored the comfort of home. “Ruff Day Resort originated as Hope 4 Your Canine in 2008 when I was a dog trainer,” Amy shares, reflecting on her transition from the corporate world to the realm of canine companionship. Driven by her love for dogs and a desire to offer unparalleled lodging and play areas, Amy took a leap of faith and turned her passion into a thriving business.

What started as a humble endeavor soon blossomed into a multifaceted facility offering daycare, training, luxury boarding, and spa services for puppies as young as 12 weeks old. The heart of Ruff Day Resort beats with the joy of its furry guests and their devoted parents. “The puppies and their parents - we celebrate with them but we also grieve with them.

trainer began at a young age, working as an assistant to a 4H Dog Trainer. Over the years, she honed her skills through hands-on experience and continuous education, ensuring that her expertise remained at the forefront of modern training methods.

A hallmark of Ruff Day Resort is its inclusive environment, welcoming dogs of all sizes with open arms. Amy’s own experiences as a dog owner fueled her drive to create a space where every pup, regardless of size, could thrive. “I was always frustrated when I couldn’t bring my small dog to the same place my big dog was attending. Now we provide that answer at Ruff Day,” she states proudly.

Everyone is like family here,” Amy remarks, emphasizing the tight-knit community that defines the essence of Ruff Day Resort.

“I was keeping my dog training guests in my home due to business booming. I needed to add more space,” Amy explains, shedding light on the inception of Ruff Day Resort.

Central to the resort’s ethos is its comprehensive training programs, catering to dogs from puppyhood to therapy dog training and beyond. Amy’s journey to becoming a dog

Among the countless success stories that grace the halls of Ruff Day Resort, one stands out as a testament to the community’s unwavering support and compassion.

“We often foster dogs with local rescues and recently had a chance to foster a Boston Terrier,” Amy recounts. The little dog, named Penny Pea Pod, captured the hearts of many but faced health challenges requiring a pacemaker. Through a collaborative effort, the community rallied together, raising funds to ensure Penny’s well-being. Today, she thrives, a living testament to the



“At the helm of this bustling business is Amy P. Holtz, a woman whose passion for dogs sparked a journey that transformed her life and the lives of countless furry companions.”

community’s unwavering support and compassion. “We often foster dogs with local rescues and recently had a chance to foster a Boston Terrier,” Amy recounts. The little dog, named Penny Pea Pod, captured the hearts of many but faced health challenges requiring a pacemaker. Through a collaborative effort, the community rallied together, raising funds to ensure Penny’s wellbeing. Today, she thrives, a living testament to the love and dedication that define Ruff Day Resort.

However, running a business isn’t without its challenges. For Amy, the hardest part lies in having to say no when the demand exceeds capacity. Yet, through meticulous staff training and a commitment to safety, Ruff Day Resort ensures that every dog receives the attention and care they deserve.

What sets Ruff Day Resort apart is its unwavering commitment to luxury and comfort. With turf play areas, upscale suites, and on-site spa services, each dog experiences a vacation of their own, leaving their families with peace of mind.

sessions to bedtime stories, every moment is crafted with the well-being of the dogs in mind.

For aspiring entrepreneurs looking to venture into the pet care industry, Amy offers sage advice: “Get experience and a mentor - consider a franchise

passion for canine companionship. As the pet care industry evolves, fueled by a surge in dog ownership postCOVID, Ruff Day Resort remains at the forefront, poised to expand its horizons with plans for franchise locations on the horizon.

where you have someone to guide you through the first few years.”

A typical day at Ruff Day Resort unfolds with a blend of play, training, and relaxation. From morning training

Balancing the demands of managing a business and spending quality time with the dogs is made possible by Amy’s dedicated staff, who share her

In the heart of every dog lover lies a deeprooted desire to ensure the happiness and well-being of their furry companions. For Amy Holtz and Ruff Day Resort, this passion transcends mere business; it’s a lifelong commitment to creating a home away from home for every dog that walks through their doors.

As the sun sets on another day at Ruff Day Resort, the sound of contented barks and wagging tails fills the air. It’s a testament to the unwavering bond between humans and their canine counterparts, a bond that Amy and her team nurture with every paw step along the way. For in the world of Ruff Day Resort, every day is an adventure, every wag a tale of love, and every bark a symphony of joy.

Visit Ruff Day Resort at www.

“ The PUPPIES and their parents - we CELEBRATE with them but we also grieve with them. Everyone is like FAMILY here. ”

“Ruff Day Resort originated as Hope 4 Your Canine in 2008 when I was a dog trainer.”

COME PLAY WITH US! Call Today to Schedule Your Tour or Check Availability (585) 347-4033 FREE NIGHT OF LODGING! For New Guests Redeemable for one FREE night of lodging. Coupon must be mentioned at reservation and presented at pick-up. Not combinable with any other offers or discounts. Call Today to Schedule Your Reservation (585) 347-4033 Quality Dog Lodging Fun DogDaycare Dog Grooming & Spa Dog Training Superior Facility & Care Quality Overnight Lodging Professional Dog Training Pampered Spa Packages FREE DAY OF DAYCARE! For New Guests Redeemable fora FREE day of daycare. Coupon must be mentioned at reservation and presented at pick-up. Not combinable with any other offers or discounts. Call Today to Schedule Your Reservation (585) 347-4033


What inspired the creation of NY Sugar Art and its unique concept?

NY Sugar Art was born out of my love for creating art out of food. I started in 2018 as an at home cottage Baker where I would spend the next four years perfecting my craft as a cookie artist. I loved creating beautiful cookies for people’s special events so much that by 2022 I knew I wanted to take NY Sugar Art to the next level. The event industry. I knew if I could add a concept to the NY Sugar Art name that people would want to book for their events, weddings, birthdays, etc , then I could build from there. After much thought I knew I needed to add a gorgeous mobile cart that would be a fantastic addition to private as well as public events. So that’s where I started.

Could you share the story behind becoming Rochester’s first mini pancake food truck?

Once a week, every week, for 10 weeks I would go and sell mini pancakes. I remember thinking this is either going to be a hit or I’ll be laughed out of business. Every week I watched as more and more people walked up hesitantly and ordered some of these mini marvels, and every time I watched as their faces turned to pure delight. Before I knew it more and more people were reaching out

This is such a great question. I want to start by saying when I first announced this idea to people, there was a lot of confusion. I don’t think anyone fully understood the concept initially and what I was going for. Thankfully I have a very supportive husband who was like, “I trust your vision, tell me what you need”. So, we started by designing a small mobile dessert cart. It was with this same cart I booked my first job selling mini pancakes at an outdoor summer concert series.

to book us for other events. We started to grow and grow, and I soon realized I loved my cart but I definitely needed to move into a food truck for more room. So we started the process of building our first Food Truck. With the help of some amazing and supportive friends/ neighbors, we were able to build the food truck of my dreams.

As a woman-owned and familyoperated business, what challenges

have you faced in the food industry? I’m not sure this constitutes a challenge, but it’s something I’m continually striving to overcome. There is a stigma in the food truck industry. No one talks about it, but I experience it constantly. I get comments all the time, “how did your husband come up with this concept?” If I’m working alone people will say “where’s the owner?” If I ever tell someone I own a food truck, there is disbelief that follows. It’s so hard for people to believe that a woman can and does own a food truck. I wouldn’t believe this mindset still exists today if I wasn’t experiencing it myself regularly. The wild part is that there are indeed many females that own and operate very successful mobile food businesses so this isn’t a new concept.

What are the most rewarding aspects of running your own business?

The most rewarding aspect of owning your own business is the fact that you are investing in yourself and your family. Every single day, you are investing in your own future. It’s an amazing feeling but holds a lot of pressure also.

What motivated the decision to offer something distinct from conventional food trucks?

I truly think food trucks are the future.




“The most rewarding aspect of owning your own business is the fact that you are investing in yourself and your family.”

I did, however, see that there was an opportunity in the dessert truck market. You can find some amazing savory lunch and dinner options, but there was a big spot missing for all the sweet lovers out there. I wanted to start to fill that gap in.

Can you describe some of NY Sugar Art’s specialty items?

So our main squeeze is obviously our delicious mini pancakes. They’re made to order insuring they’re hot and fresh. Then you, our guest, get to choose exactly how you’d like them topped, by picking from our wide assortment of toppings and delicious sauces. Another one of our specialties that’s new to the scene is our popping boba lemonades. These have been a huge hit. Packed with refreshing lemonade, delicious flavor and bursting boba pearls. Then of course we have our waffle pops. These are Belgian waffles on a stick with an assortment of chocolates and toppings.

from other food trucks and carts in the area? I wanted everything about the NY sugar art food truck and mobile cart to stand out. It was always about so much more than just offering great food. I wanted to go beyond that and offer an experience. Everything from the design of the food trucks exterior, to the decor and props I bring, to the neon signs and the backdrops. It’s all a part of the experience and aesthetic. We live in a world that loves taking pictures

How do you balance innovation with meeting customer preferences in your menu?

I continually try to offer something new and innovative to excite the senses while taking into consideration what our guests truly want. I try to constantly listen and adapt to what our guests want.

What sets NY Sugar Art apart

and posting them. So, every aspect of my business is set up for you and your friends to take photos and enjoy. Every side of our food truck offers a backdrop. Our very food itself is meant to be photographed and then enjoyed. The foundation of New York sugar art is that sugar can create art!

What role does community involvement play in your business model?

Community is everything. The very community we serve is why we are able to continue on as a business. The support from people we meet along the way. The kind words shared online from a person trying us out for the first time. It’s amazing to experience. It is because of the role the community plays in helping us grow, that we also try to give back as a company to the very community that supports us. We partner with a local hospice in Greece, NY where I spend time as a volunteer as well as join them for fundraising events. We also join multiple area fundraisers throughout the year and donate from our proceeds. Investing in the very community that supports us will always be a priority.

How do you ensure quality and consistency in your products while operating on-the-go?

Quality and consistency are the pride of my company. Many years of working in the top restaurants as well as being a consumer myself have taught me that consistency is everything. I perform quality control checks multiple times throughout every operation to ensure you’re getting our best.

Could you elaborate on the process of selecting locations for your food truck and mobile cart?

Location is everything and I am constantly looking for unique and fun


“After much thought I knew I needed to add a gorgeous mobile cart that would be a fantastic addition to private as well as public events. So that’s where I started.”

opportunities. Whether it’s partnering with a cozy local coffee shop, doing a concert on a hot summer night or showing up at major area universities for one of their fun events. I am always looking for a fun new place to partner with or serve our guests.

What have been some memorable moments or experiences since starting NY Sugar Art?

The crazy part of this all is that every event I have done is memorable. Sounds like a line right, but I am so serious. When I tell you I have met some of the most amazing and inspiring people on this journey I can’t say it enough. The most memorable part of this whole experience so far, if I had to pick one though, it would

be the people that have lifted me up in support along my journey. It’s not the people you traditionally expect, most of the time it’s complete strangers you meet along the way, and I could never forget that let alone thank them enough.

How do you adapt to seasonal changes and trends in the food industry? Seasonal changes in trends are what I live for. Each season offers a unique chance to change up our menu and decor and get people into the mood of the month. It’s a great way to keep it fresh and interesting.

What strategies do you employ to connect with your customer base and build loyalty?

Listening and eye contact. It’s a lost art in today’s busy world. Trying to chat and connect when we are not super busy has helped me make some amazing friends and contacts along the way. Remembering people’s names and our regulars’ preferences. It just lets our guests know how much we appreciate and value them.

What future plans or expansions do you envision for NY Sugar Art? While I would love to lay it all out and answer this question today, I like to keep a sprinkle of Mystery to keep things Fresh. I will say, stay tuned for some tasty surprises and make sure you’re following us on social media for any big future announcements that may happen.



Can you share a bit about your background and journey to becoming the owner and CEO of Freedom to Flourish?

In short, I was a young girl thrust into adulthood prematurely, leading me to develop habits that hindered my success. Every time I pursued life goals, my dysfunction reminded me that success was out of reach. I initially blamed my parents and mentors for my setbacks until a pivotal moment in my healing journey when I realized I had the power to thrive. I discovered the freedom to break free from dysfunction and failure, enabling me to flourish. Through introspection and reclaiming my leadership role, I honed my growth and aimed to share these leadership skills with others. This realization gave birth to Freedom to Flourish.

What inspired the creation of Freedom to Flourish, and what is its core mission?

I have a nurturing spirit towards others. Even in my darkest moments, I found solace in bringing women together to uplift and empower them. Witnessing growth and guiding others to shift their perspectives positively has always been my passion, regardless of life’s challenges. Prior to becoming a pastor, I was a young girl driven by the desire to assist others. When I was at my lowest point and contemplated ending my life, it was by God’s grace and intervention that I was saved. I feel compelled to share this inspiring story with everyone, showing

The mission is to Own Your Growth. Whether it’s small adjustments or significant transformations, I think every step towards progress deserves recognition. While not everyone may acknowledge or applaud your changes, it’s your duty to assess and celebrate your own growth.

You’re not only a business owner but also a pastor. What influenced your decision to pursue both paths? Before the Freedom to Flourish, there was a calling to be a pastor. Deep down,

that life’s journey can lead from tragedy to triumph. Becoming a pastor was not my choice; rather, pastorship chose me. I simply embraced and accepted the calling on my life. It’s surprising to find myself in this role, but I embrace it wholeheartedly and find joy in it.

As the leader of a consultancy and coaching business, what drew you to this career field?

In my circle of influence, I have observed that many individuals overlook the role

of a leader because they gauge their effectiveness based on their corporate position or income. I firmly believe that LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE. Whether you are a mother, father, CEO, entrepreneur, student, pastor, or server, you hold influence. By shifting our perspective on leadership to focus on this aspect, we can then begin to enhance our character, which in turn fosters positive change in our families, communities, and the world at large. Some only view themselves as leaders based on these titles. When we strip away the titles, we can see the individual’s true character, leading to sustained success in their role as they support a position rooted in selfawareness. As a leadership mentor and coach, my role is to determine where you stand on this spectrum and guide you back to your core, facilitating character development to achieve the desired outcomes.

Reflecting on the past few years, what have been some of your greatest successes with Freedom to Flourish?

I consider my most significant achievement to be the Own Your Growth Leadership Conference from last year. It was a rewarding experience to invite troubled youth to attend through our sponsorship program. Among them were young men known as “Kia Boys,” aged 15 and 16, who were involved in car theft and reckless driving in Rochester. One of them attended the conference and formed a bond with me. Although I wasn’t sure why he admired me, I



“In my circle of influence, I have observed that many individuals overlook the role of a leader because they gauge their effectiveness based on their corporate position or income. I firmly believe that LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE.”


assumed he was enjoying himself. Later, I discovered that he was part of the group that crashed a vehicle into the front door of my church, causing significant damage. Fortunately, nothing was stolen, but we had to replace the door. The young man came to apologize for his actions and expressed gratitude for being part of the leadership conference. While the conference was not exclusively for young people, it was inclusive of all leaders. I believe that something at the conference impacted this young man’s life positively, and if this is the outcome, then it is a true success.

Alongside success, what challenges have you encountered while running Freedom to Flourish?

The challenge I’m encountering involves challenging the notion that success stems from external factors rather than internal growth. Unfortunately, few grasp the significance of investing in their leadership development. Character development is often undervalued in today’s society. We tend to spend more on fleeting pleasures like food, rather than investing in enduring qualities that could enhance our character. Given the choice between buying a new outfit and enrolling in character-building courses, many would opt for the outfit without considering the improvement of their inner selves.

to Flourish 21 Days of Developing a Mindset for Growth Leadership Guide” and its significance?

Freedom To Flourish 21 Days of Developing A Mindset For Growth is a leadership guide focusing on biblical principles to aid personal growth and development. The Holy Bible is considered a valuable source of wisdom and guidance in navigating spaces of

improve leadership skills. These tools can create a positive and productive atmosphere and foster teamwork.

What are some key leadership tools or principles that guide your approach in both business and pastoral roles? I believe that my leadership tools and principles are rooted in striving to be a more devoted disciple of Christ, which influences every aspect of my life. I have established a base of love, discipline, honor, trust, loyalty, fellowship, and enjoyment. By incorporating these values into my daily life, I aim to improve myself, which seamlessly translates to my roles as a pastor and a business leader. However, these values are not confined to these roles alone; they also extend to my other roles, such as being a wife for sixteen years, mother of four, and a sister.

How did the idea for your Leadership Solutions podcast come about, and what topics do you typically cover?

Could you tell us about the “Freedom

influence. The Bible teaches humility, service, patience, kindness, truthfulness, integrity, and faith amidst conflict. These universal teachings can be applied to impact the world around us positively. This book provides timeless leadership tools that apply to any life situation, whether at work, at home, or among friends. It offers advice on strategic thinking, effective communication, and honest leadership, all of which can help

The podcast originated years ago during a time of personal growth and transformation. Originally titled “Fighting the Good Fight,” I later renamed it “Freedom to Flourish” to align with my current journey. This podcast aims to push you to enhance your leadership skills across the board. From recognizing your leadership qualities to understanding those you lead, the episodes cover a wide range of topics.



“Through introspection and reclaiming my leadership role, I honed my growth and aimed to share these leadership skills with others. This realization gave birth to Freedom to Flourish.”


As a leader, how do you balance your professional commitments with personal well-being and growth?

Continuously revisiting balance is essential for personal growth. As a leader, dividing time across different life areas is crucial to assess where one stands. Personally, I’m still learning to manage my responsibilities effectively. With growth comes increased accountability, and a key sign of balance to me is when I prioritize others’ needs as my own. Feeling overwhelmed and letting others dictate my schedule rather than aligning it with my priorities indicates an imbalance, calling for realignment through self-care.

Can you share a memorable moment where you witnessed the impact of your coaching or consultancy services on a client’s life or business?

I once had a client who needed assistance in finding her voice to excel in her career. She desired to communicate with confidence. As we began to establish a relationship, it became apparent that her struggle was not rooted in a lack of confidence but in mental and spiritual exhaustion. Years of suppression had left her too drained to speak up when needed, affecting her physical health as well. Although she knew what to say and do, she lacked the energy to follow through. Consequently, we shifted our focus from building confidence and finding her voice to prioritizing boundaries and self-care. This change in approach enabled her to regain her strength, confidently assert

herself, and overcome the health issues she faced. Today, she is thriving in her identity and owning her presence in any room she enters.

What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs or individuals looking to enhance their leadership skills?

I recommend that individuals aspiring to be entrepreneurs or seeking to improve their leadership abilities find a mentor.

adaptable in an ever-evolving business landscape?

Staying innovative hinges on your ability to adapt to change. Resistance to change can impede your adaptability. I believe creativity flourishes in the face of change as it prompts innovative responses. Embracing change is crucial for unlocking the potential that fuels innovation. Therefore, I purposefully put myself in unfamiliar environments, like learning a new skill, enrolling in a different course, or trying out new activities.

Accountability is crucial, even if goal setting is not your weakness, followthrough might be. Having a mentor is not just a trend; it can be life-altering. It’s essential to find a reputable and trustworthy mentor, and once you do, stick with them and let them guide you in transforming your life. Women were not designed to be independent; instead, they were meant to be interdependent.

How do you stay innovative and

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of Freedom to Flourish and your personal journey as a leader and pastor?

I look forward to the day when Freedom to Flourish evolves from a program into an accredited leadership school that caters to people of all ages and backgrounds. Additionally, I am working towards establishing a dedicated campus for our Church Waging War Ministries. The envisioned campus will feature daycare services, a wellness garden for families to grow fresh produce, emergency housing for transitional living, a space for fellowship, and event facilities. These aspirations reflect my commitment to nurturing and empowering disciples of Christ through restoration and rebuilding.

Your Leadership Consultant, JauQuema T. Jones Rochester, NY 14610 585-775-8295



Meet Shakierah Smith, a remarkable entrepreneur, lawyer, and the embodiment of inspiration. As the cover woman for Rochester Woman Online Magazine’s special Western, Central and Upstate NY women entrepreneurs section, she exemplifies resilience, determination, and the pursuit of excellence. Shakierah’s journey is one of overcoming barriers as a first-generation college graduate, paving the way for others and building a legacy of both wealth and knowledge destined to transcend generations.

With an entrepreneurial spirit that knows no bounds, Shakierah has carved her path in the business world, proving that hard work and perseverance are the keys to success. As a lawyer, she champions justice and empowers others through her legal expertise, advocating for fairness and equality in every endeavor. Her multifaceted career showcases her versatility and dedication to making a positive impact on both her community and the business landscape.

to emulate and admire.

Can you share a bit about your background and upbringing?

Certainly! I was born in Rochester, NY on September 7, 1996. Interestingly, this date holds significance in rap culture as it marks the day Tupac was shot and later passed away. A grim yet intriguing fact. My mother gave birth to me on that eventful night. Both of my parents were young and low-income when they had my older

What inspired you to pursue a career in law?

Throughout my life, the law has played a significant role in various ways. Initially, my exposure to the legal system came from watching crime shows like Law and Order: SVU, Cold Case, Without a Trace, CSI, and many others alongside my late grandmother, who was an avid fan of such shows. Her influence shaped my interest in crime and the legal process. As I grew older, my understanding of the legal system deepened as I witnessed my uncles, who are Black men, navigate their own legal troubles and encounters with law enforcement. This experience opened my eyes to the unique challenges faced by Black individuals within the legal system, a topic that deserves further discussion.

Shakierah’s story serves as a beacon of hope for aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals alike, demonstrating that with determination and passion, anything is possible. Her journey reminds us that regardless of our background, we have the power to shape our destinies and leave a lasting legacy for future generations

sister and me. Reflecting on the past, I see that my parents did their best with limited resources. Despite growing up in poverty-stricken areas and attending public schools like School Without Walls, their hard work and independence shaped me into the person I am today. Witnessing their resilience inspired me to strive for success and provide a better future for my children, aiming to break the cycle of limited opportunities and create a legacy of wealth and knowledge for generations to come.

However, it was a personal incident that truly sparked my desire to become an attorney. My life took a turn resembling a real-life episode of Law and Order: SVU when someone close to me was sexually assaulted by a person we had trusted and been around. The victim bravely disclosed the sexual abuse to the authorities, leading to charges being filed against the alleged perpetrator. However, to my dismay, the trial resulted in a not guilty verdict. Witnessing the entire case unfold and witnessing the profound mental and emotional harm inflicted upon the victim ignited a fire within me. This experience not only changed my life but also solidified my determination

“Overall, my educational background has equipped me with a unique combination of skills and knowledge.”

to pursue a career in law.

How did it feel to graduate from law school and become a licensed attorney? Inexpressible. It’s hard to adequately convey the overwhelming emotions I felt as I made my way across the stage to receive my diploma, successfully passed the bar exam, New York Law exam, and multistate professional responsibility exam on my initial attempt, navigated through the character and fitness evaluation, and ultimately was sworn in as a licensed attorney in both New York and New Jersey. Each of these milestones left me speechless, filled with awe and gratitude for how far I had come against all odds.

Reflecting on this journey never fails to stir up deep emotions within me, as I recall the doubts and struggles I faced, contemplating dropping out of college and law school due to the immense pressure and challenges. However, looking back, I realize that there was a higher purpose guiding me through those tough times, and I am immensely grateful that I persevered and did not succumb to self-doubt.

While it may be difficult to fully articulate the profound impact of these moments, I can confidently say that the journey was a humbling and unforgettable experience that has left an indelible mark on my life. It serves as a reminder of the power of resilience and determination, and I will forever cherish the memory of that significant achievement as a testament to what can be accomplished through unwavering perseverance.

What motivated you to start your own YouTube channel, “Lawyer Bae and the City”?

Definitely. I currently work in New York City as a commercial real estate attorney. So, I started the YouTube channel to essentially document my transition from law school to the big city.

Can you tell us about the concept behind your YouTube channel and what viewers can expect?

The idea behind my channel, which is currently not very active due to my focus on other projects, revolves around showcasing my life as a Black, firstgeneration, female attorney in both Big Law and a White male-dominated industry. My goal is to use my YouTube platform to challenge stereotypes about attorneys’ appearances and redefine the traditional image of what it means to be a lawyer. Additionally, I aim to highlight my personality and demonstrate to viewers that it is possible to embrace diverse interests such as loving the color pink, being a food enthusiast, enjoying outings with friends, and rapping Nicki Minaj lyrics while still maintaining a professional identity as a member of the legal profession. This approach emphasizes the importance of being multidimensional and not allowing societal expectations associated with being an attorney to limit one’s true self-expression.

What degrees do you hold, and how have they contributed to your journey in law?

With a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and communication, a master’s degree in criminal justice, and a juris doctor degree, which is a law degree,

I have acquired a diverse educational background. The communication degree I obtained has proven to be extremely valuable in my professional journey. It has significantly enhanced my communication skills, particularly in public speaking and interpersonal communication. As a result, I have developed an advanced level of proficiency in these areas.

On the other hand, my criminal justice degrees have provided me with a comprehensive and holistic understanding of the criminal justice system and criminality as a whole. Through my studies, I have come to realize that although many laws were created with the intention of equality, they often disproportionately impact certain groups, leading to unjust outcomes. This realization has shed light on the inadequacies of our system and has motivated me to seek areas of reform that I aspire to contribute to in the future.

Overall, my educational background has equipped me with a unique combination of skills and knowledge. The communication degree has honed my ability to effectively convey ideas and engage with others, while my criminal justice degrees have deepened my understanding of the complexities within the legal system. Together, these qualifications have shaped my perspective and fueled my passion for advocating for a fair and just society.

Reflecting on your time in law school, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced?

Law school is an incredibly competitive



“My goal is to use my YouTube platform to challenge stereotypes about attorneys’ appearances and redefine the traditional image of what it means to be a lawyer.”

environment, both in terms of gaining admission and throughout the duration of the program. This competitiveness was something that I, as a firstgeneration law student, did not fully comprehend at first. Specifically, I am referring to the intense competition that exists among students once they are accepted into law school. Despite being academically successful and actively involved in various law school initiatives, I found that being at the top of my class could be isolating. Instead of being seen as a peer, my classmates often viewed me as a rival. This was a stark contrast to my experiences in undergraduate and graduate school, where collaboration and camaraderie were more prevalent. Additionally, I placed immense pressure on myself to excel academically and contribute as much as possible to the advancement of both the law school and students who shared my background. Although this responsibility was burdensome, I now realize that it was well worth it. Looking back, I am proud to see that the initiatives I helped establish, such as the First-Generation Law Students Association and the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Editor position on the Buffalo Law Review’s Executive Board, continue to thrive and grow even in my absence.

What triumphs have you experienced throughout your journey as a legal professional?

The initial success I encountered can be attributed to the learning curve. Being a first-generation lawyer, I was astounded by the sheer steepness of the real estate learning curve. Fortunately, my department offers exceptional training

programs that have significantly eased the learning process. Additionally, another triumph I have encountered is the occasional feeling of inadequacy or selfdoubt, which has persistently challenged me throughout my professional journey.

Could you share some memorable moments from your career so far?

The establishment of the First Generation Professionals employee resource group at my firm stands out as one of the most significant moments in my career. Over the course of nearly a year, we diligently worked towards its creation, and I am delighted to share that our efforts have paid off as this resource group has received official approval. I am honored to serve as one of the cochairs, alongside two of my esteemed friends and colleagues. This resource group mirrors the First Generation Law Students Association (FGLSA) that I founded during my time in law school, as it aims to provide first generation attorneys with invaluable resources to navigate their careers in the realm of Big Law. It is worth noting that our law firm is one of the few that offers such a resource, making me immensely proud to be at the forefront of this pioneering initiative. I am filled with joy knowing that future first generation attorneys will have a smoother transition into their careers, thanks to the support and guidance provided by this resource group.

As a woman in a male-dominated field, what unique challenges have you encountered?

In my opinion, the primary obstacle lies in the pressure to conform to masculine traits to be respected. However, the

dilemma arises when one displays assertiveness, confidence, or firmness, as they are often labeled as trying to emulate men, derogatory terms are used, or stereotyped as an angry Black woman. Striking a balance becomes challenging, but I choose to stay unapologetically authentic to myself because I am aware of the strength and influence my voice and presence hold, even in a maledominated industry that sometimes tries to diminish or suppress it.

How do you navigate and overcome obstacles as a female leader in the legal industry?

My work is a testament to my abilities and expertise. When one excels in their field, there should be no room for doubt or controversy, particularly when it comes to factors such as race or gender. Essentially, I strive to perform my duties to the best of my abilities and hope that my accomplishments are not overshadowed solely due to my race or gender, as I possess qualities and skills that extend beyond these attributes. It is crucial to bear in mind that there are individuals relying on my perseverance to carry on with the marathon, establishing an environment of security for them, and embodying the transformation I aspire to witness. By setting aside personal pride and emotions, I can concentrate on the broader perspective and successfully accomplish the task at hand.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to pursue a career in law?

Remain authentic to your true self, have faith in your abilities, and understand the significance of your existence in

“This experience not only changed my life but also solidified my determination to pursue a career in law.”

this specific industry. I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity to honor and embrace your accomplishments as you join us at the bar.

How do you balance your professional life with other aspects of your life?

Working in a large law firm can be extremely demanding, particularly for junior associates, as time is your most valuable asset, which is why it may seem like you’re on call around the clock. To manage this, I ensure to allocate time in my hectic schedule for traveling, spending time with friends and family on weekends, exercising, working on personal projects, and relaxing at home. I have also set boundaries at work and feel comfortable informing my practice group manager when I am overwhelmed or unable to take on additional tasks. Fortunately, I am part of a department that respects boundaries and provides coverage when necessary.

What initiatives or projects are you currently working on that excite you the most?

My upcoming book, documenting my path to becoming a lawyer, which is set to be published in the early months of next year. Additionally, I will be launching my candle business, Ambiance Aroma Candles, on April 24, 2024.

What impact do you hope to make through your work as an attorney and content creator?

My goal is to challenge the common misconceptions about attorneys and showcase their human side. There are many stereotypes surrounding our appearance, behavior, and background,

but my presence in the legal field has already shattered many of these preconceived notions. However, my aim goes beyond that - I want people to understand that you can be an attorney while staying true to your authentic self. As evidence, I proudly embrace my love for pink and my admiration for Nicki Minaj, which are clearly evident on my social media platforms, particularly TikTok. These aspects of my personality have always defined me, and I believe that the legal system would benefit from greater diversity not only in appearance but also in interests and perspectives. By remaining true to ourselves, we can contribute to this much-needed change.

How do you stay motivated and inspired in your career?

Remembering where I come from, where I’m headed and who’s counting on me to get to that destination.

Can you tell us about a particularly challenging case you’ve worked on and how you overcame obstacles?

In my role as a transactional Big Law attorney specializing in real estate, I rarely come across cases that are truly challenging in the conventional sense. However, I must admit that all the pro bono housing cases I’ve handled have presented unique emotional challenges. It is during these cases that I find myself face-to-face with clients who are going through one of the darkest periods of their lives. Many of them are overwhelmed and filled with intense emotions, and rightfully so, as they are facing the imminent threat of eviction without any alternative housing options. These cases are particularly tough because they

require me to strike a delicate balance between empathy and professionalism. It can be incredibly difficult to remain composed and objective when listening to the heart-wrenching stories of these clients, knowing that I may be their last hope for a resolution.

In your opinion, what changes still need to occur in the legal profession to promote diversity and inclusion? In my opinion, the root of the issue lies within the upper echelons of an organization. It is crucial to have a greater representation of diversity in leadership positions. To achieve this, we must not only enhance our recruitment practices to attract diverse talent, but also prioritize the retention of such individuals. It is common for companies to prioritize diversity in their hiring process, but they often fall short in ensuring that these individuals feel included, comfortable, and confident in their roles and responsibilities. Therefore, it is imperative that we concentrate on both recruitment and retention as they are interconnected and cannot succeed without one another. I have personally witnessed the impact of this firsthand, and it is essential that we address this issue in real time.

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for the future?

My long-term aspiration is to pursue a career as a judge. In addition to this, I am keen on engaging with students in educational settings to motivate and empower young individuals by recounting my personal journey and experiences.

“ Witnessing their RESILIENCE inspired me to strive for success and provide a better future for my children, aiming to break the cycle of limited OPPORTUNITIES and create a legacy of wealth and knowledge for GENERATIONS to come. ”

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Can you share with us a bit about your background and what inspired you to become a nurse practitioner?

My journey to becoming a nurse practitioner was deeply inspired by my background in oncology and my passion for helping people. Working as a registered nurse in oncology, I witnessed firsthand the immense challenges patients face, not just physically but also emotionally and mentally. It was during these moments of vulnerability and strength I realized the profound impact I could have as a healthcare provider.

Every day, I saw the strength and resilience of patients fighting against cancer, and I wanted to be a part of their journey in a more meaningful way. I wanted to not only provide medical care but also offer compassion, support, and guidance during some of the most difficult times in their lives. This experience fueled my desire to become a nurse practitioner, allowing me to combine my clinical skills with my passion for providing holistic care.

As I open my own business focusing on health, wellness, and regenerative services, I am committed to making a difference in the lives of my clients. I aim to provide comprehensive care that addresses not only their physical health but also their overall well-being. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue making a positive impact in the lives of others through my new venture.

What motivated you to establish Native Wellness in Lakeville, NY?

“Native” can be defined as “living or growing naturally in a particular place or region.” I was born and raised in Livingston County and always seemed to feel a pull to be here in the Finger Lakes region. After spending 12 years of working in traditional healthcare (hospital based medicine), I saw the opportunity to bring more holistic


aesthetics & wellness

Moujaro, Ozempic/ Wegovy) offer a promising approach for individuals struggling to lose weight. GLP-1 medications work by mimicking the effects of a natural hormone in the body, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP1), which helps regulate appetite and food intake. By stimulating GLP-1 receptors in the brain, these medications can reduce feelings of hunger and increase feelings of fullness, leading to a decreased caloric intake. Additionally, GLP-1 medications can slow down the emptying of the stomach, further promoting satiety and helping to control blood sugar levels. These combined effects make GLP-1 medications an effective tool in weight management, especially for individuals with obesity or related metabolic conditions.

wellness services to the area. The traditional healthcare system has let many of us down, and I wanted to be able to practice in a way that would make my community a better and healthier place.

Could you describe the services Native Wellness offers to its clients?

Medical Weight Management: Medically assisted weight management with GLP-1 medications (Zepbound/

IV Hydration | Vitamin Therapy: This service provides a quick and effective way to replenish essential nutrients and fluids. By delivering vitamins, minerals, and hydration directly into the bloodstream, this therapy bypasses the digestive system, ensuring maximum absorption and immediate benefits. It can help boost energy levels, improve hydration, support immune function, and enhance overall well-being. Infusions take anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on the contents in the drip. Vitamin injections (shots) are available as well which take 30 seconds or less to administer.

Wrinkle relaxers: A versatile treatment offering both cosmetic and health benefits. In cosmetic use, it can smooth

“I strive to prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency, both in my business and personal life. This helps me focus on what truly matters and allocate my time and energy accordingly.”

wrinkles and fine lines, rejuvenating the skin’s appearance. For health purposes, Botox can also be used to treat various medical conditions, such as chronic migraines, excessive sweating, and TMJ, providing patients with relief and improved quality of life.

What are some of the key challenges you’ve encountered as a business owner in the wellness industry?

Competition from Larger Businesses: Larger wellness businesses from nearby cities or online platforms pose a competitive threat. They may have greater resources and marketing reach, making it challenging for a small business to compete.

Community Perception: Changing community perceptions and attitudes towards wellness practices are challenging in a small town where traditional values and practices are more prevalent.

Limited Market Size: Operating in a small town and county means having a limited local market. This can make it challenging to attract and retain customers, especially if there is a lack of awareness or interest in wellness services.

Regulations: The aesthetics and wellness industries are subject to various regulations and compliance requirements, which can be complex and vary by location.

Balancing being a mother, partner, and entrepreneur can be demanding. How do you manage these roles effectively?

I’ve found that establishing clear priorities and boundaries is key. I strive to prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency, both in my business and personal life. This helps me focus on what truly matters and allocate my time and energy accordingly.

Communication is also crucial in managing these roles effectively. I make sure to communicate openly and honestly with my partner about my commitments and needs, and we work together to support each other in our respective roles. Additionally, I involve my children in my work when possible, explaining to them what I do and why it’s important. This helps them understand and appreciate the time I dedicate to my business.

Self-care is another essential aspect of managing these roles. I prioritize self-care activities such as exercise and spending quality time with my family as well as utilizing the services I offer to my clients! Taking care of myself allows me to recharge and be more present and effective in all aspects of my life.

Finally, I’ve learned to be flexible and adaptable. Unexpected challenges and changes are inevitable, so I try to approach them with a positive mindset and a willingness to adjust my plans as needed. By embracing these strategies, I’m able to effectively balance my roles as a mother, partner, and entrepreneur, ensuring that each aspect of my life receives the attention and care it deserves.

What is the core mission behind Native Wellness, and how do you strive to achieve it?

The Mission Statement of Native Wellness is as follows: “At the intersection of aesthetics, wellness, and community, our mission is to inspire and empower individuals to embrace their natural beauty and prioritize holistic health. Through regenerative services and a supportive environment, we aim to cultivate a vibrant community where everyone can thrive and feel their best.”

We strive to achieve this through comprehensive wellness programs that cater to the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of our clients. To do so, we incorporate services such as nutrition counseling, fitness programs, stress management techniques, and mindfulness practices. We offer aesthetic services which not only enhance physical appearance but also promote self-confidence and wellbeing. We ensure treatments are safe, effective, and tailored to individual needs. We strive to engage with the community through educational workshops, seminars, and events focused on health and wellness. We aim to foster a collaborative approach to healthcare by working closely with other healthcare and holistic providers, such as physicians, therapists, and nutritionists, to ensure comprehensive care for our clients. We prioritize personalized care for each client, taking into consideration their unique goals, preferences, and needs. This can empower clients to take an active role in their health and well-being. We stay updated with the

“Working as a registered nurse in oncology, I witnessed firsthand the immense challenges patients face, not just physically but also emotionally and mentally.”

latest advancements in wellness and aesthetics and incorporate innovative treatments and technologies which are safe, effective, and in line with our mission. Lastly, we regularly seek feedback from clients to understand their needs and preferences better. Using this feedback to improve services and enhance the overall client experience.

In your experience, what are the essential components of a healthy journey for your clients?

First, we begin with a comprehensive assessment to understand our client’s health status, goals, and any specific needs related to weight management, cosmetic treatments, or nutrient deficiencies. With this information we develop a personalized treatment plan which addresses our client’s unique needs and goals. From there, we provide guidance on nutrition and lifestyle modifications to support our client’s overall health and wellness goals. We strongly emphasize the importance of a balanced diet, regular physical activity, stress management, and adequate sleep. By monitoring our client’s progress regularly and making adjustments to their treatment plan as needed, it ensures the plan remains effective and helps the client stay on track towards their goals. Education and support can not be stressed enough! We educate clients about their treatments and provide ongoing support to help them navigate their wellness journey. We encourage them to ask questions, express their concerns, and actively participate in their treatment plan.

How has being a nurse practitioner informed your approach to wellness at Native Wellness?

My background as a nurse practitioner influences my approach to aesthetics and wellness by emphasizing a patientcentered, holistic, and evidence-based approach, with a focus on safety, ethics, and effective communication and support. I emphasize the importance of patient-centered care; focusing on the individual’s unique needs, preferences, and goals. This approach can translate seamlessly into aesthetics and wellness, where understanding the client’s desires and concerns is crucial. Nursing often takes a holistic view of health, considering physical, emotional, and social aspects. This perspective is valuable, where overall well-being and lifestyle factors can significantly impact outcomes. Nursing involves extensive communication with patients, families, and colleagues. Empathetic communication is essential for building trust and understanding client needs. Nursing emphasizes the use of evidence-based practice to guide decision-making. This translates to staying up-to-date with research and best practices to offer clients effective and safe treatments.

What sets Native Wellness apart from other wellness centers or practices in the area?

Our aesthetics and wellness practice stands out in several ways. First and foremost, we are proud to be a LGBTQIA, female-owned and led practice, which brings a unique perspective and approach to our services. Additionally, being led by a nurse practitioner sets us apart,

as it ensures that our clients receive expert care that is not only effective but also safe and backed by medical knowledge.

Furthermore, being the only practice of its kind in our area means that we can offer specialized services and a level of expertise that is unmatched locally. This allows us to provide a high standard of care and tailored treatments that truly meet the needs of our clients. Overall, our combination of female leadership, medical expertise, and exclusive offerings make our practice a standout choice for those seeking aesthetics and wellness services in our area

Could you highlight some success stories or positive outcomes from clients who have utilized your services?

With our medically assisted weight management program, we have helped 32 people lose a combined 528 pounds!! These numbers are life changing from a mental, emotional, and physical perspective. A few client quotes:

“This is taking care of unconscious eating and grazing.”

“This has healed my relationship with food.”

“You are a genius, the scale finally moved again ... best year of my life, thank you!”

“I feel hope for the first time in a long time, I am so grateful for your help!” “This treatment has curbed my cravings

“At the intersection of aesthetics, wellness, and community, our mission is to inspire and empower individuals to embrace their natural beauty and prioritize holistic health.”

and cut out the food noise in my head. Game changer for someone who has struggled a lifetime with food and weight.”

The before and afters located on our social media pages demonstrate the subtle changes that neuromodulators (Xeomin) can make to enhance our natural selves. These essentially painless injections given every 3-4 months for maintenance, help to relax muscles and in turn smooth away fine lines and wrinkles that occur with movement. From a health perspective, we had a client receive Xeomin which in turn allowed her to be migraine free for well over a month.

Vitamin therapy | IV hydration has helped clients maintain immune function throughout our cold and flu season, maintain optimal nutrient levels, and provide energy when feeling sluggish. A direct quote from a client, “I went to Amy desperate for immune system support. I’m immunocompromised with small children that seem to always have some sort of illness. I had the Cold & Flu Brew vitamin drip. My kids have been sick twice since and I haven’t gotten the illness either time. Super grateful for Amy and the services she brings to the area!”

What strategies do you employ to stay updated with the latest developments and trends in the wellness industry?

• Continuing Education: I regularly participate in workshops, seminars, and online courses related to the aesthetics and wellness industry. This

allows me to stay informed about new research, techniques, and best practices.

• Networking: I actively engage with other professionals in the wellness industry through networking events, conferences, and online forums. This helps me stay connected with industry trends and developments. I attended the InjectablesEDU Summit in Florida back in March which offered perspectives related to industry standards, hands on Botox training, and business trends.

• Reading Industry Publications: I regularly read industry publications, journals, and websites to stay informed about the latest news, research, and trends in the wellness industry.

• Customer Feedback: I listen to feedback from my clients to understand their needs, preferences, and expectations. This helps me stay relevant and adapt my offerings to meet their evolving needs.

• Collaboration: I collaborate with other wellness professionals and businesses to exchange ideas, share knowledge, and stay updated with industry trends. I will be starting a six month mentorship program with two aesthetic industry leaders beginning next month that I am looking forward to!

As a business owner, how do you foster a supportive and inclusive environment within Native Wellness?

I know the importance of inclusivity, personally, as I am in a same sex

relationship while raising two daughters. My partner and I know firsthand the importance of feeling comfortable and naturally included in all aspects of life. So, this allows us to start with creating a culture which values diversity and inclusivity at its core. This can be achieved by implementing policies and practices that promote equality and respect for all individuals. We extend ourselves in our small community where those voices may not be as easily heard to make sure our clients know they are welcome at all times and all circumstances. We encourage open communication and feedback, creating a safe space for everyone to express their ideas and concerns. By fostering a culture of inclusivity, we strive to create a supportive environment where everyone can thrive and contribute to the success of the community and in turn, the business.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the wellness field?

Start by identifying your passion and purpose. Understand what drives you in this field and how you can make a meaningful impact. Research the market and your target audience to ensure there is a demand for your offerings. Additionally, focus on building a strong brand that reflects your values and resonates with your audience. Network with other professionals in the field to learn from their experiences and seek mentorship if possible. Finally, be adaptable and willing to evolve your offerings based on feedback and market trends to stay competitive in

“As I open my own business focusing on health, wellness, and regenerative services, I am committed to making a difference in the lives of my clients.”

How do you prioritize self-care and maintain your own well-being amidst your busy schedule?

Balancing multiple roles and responsibilities can be challenging, but prioritizing self-care is essential for maintaining our own well-being. I make time for self-care by scheduling it into my daily routine, even if it’s just a few minutes each day. This could include activities like meditation, exercise, or simply taking a short break to relax and recharge. I also prioritize tasks and delegate when possible, recognizing that it’s okay to ask for help. Setting boundaries and saying no to additional commitments helps me manage my workload and carve out time for myself. Additionally, I try to stay organized and plan ahead to minimize stress and make time for the things that matter most to me.

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for the future of Native Wellness?

Native Wellness is expanding! We are in the process of obtaining a larger space within the next year located 1 mile down the road from our current location in Lakeville (Conesus Lake). Our goals with expansion will include 2 smart saunas that will provide optimal dosages of red light therapy and three infrared waves (near, mid, and far). The benefits of using a sauna with red light and infrared waves include but are not limited to weight management, relaxation, heart health, anti-aging, detoxification, sleep, and muscle recovery. My partner Kailee will provide Reiki therapy, a form of energy work to promote relaxation and a sense of well-being. Prior to a physical location expansion, we will be adding on testosterone replacement therapy

and other injectable services such as biostimulators to help with our natural collagen production and re-hydration to aid in the aging process. Our goal is to provide the community with a well rounded array of services to promote an improved sense of health and wellness from an individualized approach. Live Well in LivCo.

For more information contact is at: 5901 Big Tree Rd, Lakeville, NY, United States, New York (585) 566-1843 nat.iv.e_wellness



Can you share with us a bit about your journey into the world of burlesque and how you got started as a performer?

About 12 years ago, I went to a local burlesque show to see the troupe Whiskey Tango Sideshow. I was entranced! I was absolutely gobsmacked at the sexiness, boldness, humor, and fun. I remember wishing I could be a part of it, but I thought I was too old and had the wrong body type. Plus, I’m just not super graceful or coordinated! I started attending every one of their shows that I could, figuring if I couldn’t be a performer, I could be a super fan!

My mom developed early onset Alzheimer’s when she was 62. It’s genetic, so there’s a possibility she has passed it on to me, and that profoundly changed my perspective on life. At that time, I had 15 years until I turned 62, and I realized that just wasn’t a lot of time. I turned my life upsidedown. I started saying “yes” to things I wanted and “no” to things I didn’t or weren’t working for me. I changed my job, I ended bad friendships and made new friends, I got divorced from an absolute poophead of a man and fell in love with a man who I thought was all wrong for me but turned out to be EVERYTHING I never knew I wanted and needed. I traveled. I became audacious! A few years later, for my “Last 40 Days of my 40’s,” I created a list of 40 things I wanted to do before I turned 50. These were things I had always wanted to do but hadn’t. I pierced my nose, danced on a bar, tried fire cupping,

went skinnydipping, cosplayed at NY ComiCon…and I started taking a bellydance class. A few months after starting bellydance classes, the studio offered a 6 week burlesque class, and I signed up. At the first class, I was equally terrified and excited. The instructor, the fabulous Danielle Saint Velvet, announced that our “graduation” would be to perform as the opening act for the next Whiskey Tango Sideshow show. I went home and told my husband I probably wasn’t going back! But, I did. I loved it. I loved the way the movements made me feel. I loved the other women in my class. I loved the glamour and naughtiness of it all. The night we performed was like magic. I had never felt anything like it. Afterwards, my husband said to me, “I know you love your bellydance classes, but I have NEVER seen you light up the way you lit up on that stage tonight, and if any part of you wants to continue doing burlesque, I encourage you to.” I was 50 years old, plus size, and a bit clumsy… and I was hooked!

What drew you specifically to burlesque as a form of expression? Burlesque filled in a piece of my soul that I didn’t know was missing. That’s really it. I am more me on the stage performing than I am anywhere else. That is truly a gift to find a space like that. Professionally, I have learned so much about promotion, social media, business, and a general embracing of “what’s the worst that can happen?!”

Who are some of the burlesque

performers that have inspired or influenced your style?

First of all, there’s Whiskey Tango Sideshow (IG: @whiskey_tango_ sideshow). My first experience with burlesque. Locally, I love Sizzlin Liz (IG: @sizzlin_lizzz), Ghula Mortisse (IG: @ghulamortisse), and Chrissy Bunz (IG: @cbunzburlesque), and so so so many more! I have to give extra love to Jo Boring (IG: @gojoproductions). She was my first bellydance instructor and then burlesque ensemble choreographer. She helped me understand that I do not have to look like everyone else or perform like everyone else; being authentically myself is the key! I’m lucky to be in a region with a lot of amazing burlesque performers and troupes. As for “legends,” I am continually inspired by Bella Sin, Perle Noire, Michelle L’Amour, Jo Weldon, Dirty Martini, and Jeez Louise…and many many more!

Could you elaborate on what the “burlesque buffet” entails and what attendees can expect from such an event?

Burlesque Buffet (IG: @ burlesquebuffet) is my burlesque production company. It’s a collaboration with my husband, Don Manuel Presents. It was created by accident! A friend asked me about doing burlesque for the inaugural Foothills Fringe Festival. I thought she was asking me to perform, and I said, “yes!” Turns out, she was asking me to put together a show! My first reaction was “oh, hells no!” But, the more I thought about it, the more I



“About 12 years ago, I went to a local burlesque show to see the troupe Whiskey Tango Sideshow. I was entranced!”

thought, “what if…?”

If you come to a Burlesque Buffet show (and you should!), you can expect to see a wide range of performances and performers. We strongly believe in diversity and equity, and our shows reflect that. We hope that every audience member sees themselves on stage. We also like to have a good time! So, you can expect a lot of playfulness and interaction with the audience (with full consent!). We call it Burlesque Buffet, because we often don’t have a theme that restricts performers to finding or creating an act to fit into the theme. We tell performers to bring the act that brings them the most joy. As a result, you get a burlesque buffet! You will see performances ranging from classic burlesque to neo to cheesecake to comedy…and all things in between.

When you’re not on stage, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. I love those roles and spending time with my family. For my day job, I am the Director of IT Operations for the University Library at Cornell University. I’m also the Vice President of the Ithaca Branch of the Rochester Chapter of the Project Management Institute. I try to bring a lot of creativity into my work roles. For fun, I love to travel and adventure. My favorite hashtags are #soulquesting, #rewildyourlife, and #unfuckyourself – and I try to live them every day. I once saw an interview with Prince and he was playing the guitar and trying to get the reporter to sing Purple Rain with him. She got all embarrassed and refused. It may sound strange, but this interview rocked me to my core.

I have to believe the refusal probably haunts that reporter to this day. I mean, who doesn’t sing with Prince?!!! I am determined not to miss chances like that! I am a horrible singer, but recently when I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland after traveling there for a burlesque show, I had the chance to sing with the band there. I grabbed that microphone and belted out “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett and then followed that up with an encore of “Blister in the Sun.”

I’m a total nerd, so lots of geeking out to nerdy books, movies, series, and my husband and I go to NY ComicCon every year. I read obsessively. I love trying new foods and learning to cook new things. I’m also trying to learn to make some of my burlesque costume pieces…I’m not innately crafty, so it’s a challenge!

Balancing the roles of a mother, wife, and entrepreneur can be challenging. How do you manage to juggle these responsibilities effectively?

I am a recovering perfectionist. Now, I just inherently believe that it will all come out in the wash. I decide what the most important thing or things to get done each day are, and I do them first. If other stuff gets done, great. If not, oh well. So far, the world hasn’t ended because I didn’t finish the laundry, but I have impacted others’ lives because they saw me on stage or participated in a class that I facilitated. My grandsons think I hung the moon, and that’s because when they’re with me that’s all I’m focused on: them. Everything else can wait its turn.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs who are struggling to find balance in their personal and professional lives? There’s no such thing as balance. There’s putting your energy into what’s most important to you and letting the rest go (and that includes letting go of other people’s expectations and judgements). You do you, boo. No one else has to understand.

As a woman entrepreneur in the burlesque industry, what are some of the unique challenges you’ve faced, and how have you overcome them? Getting bookings as a new solo performer is challenging. From the outside, it looks like burlesque is just the performance, but there is so much work behind the scenes! Networking is really important; probably the most important thing.

I talked with more experienced dancers about their journey. I also attended classes, like Bella Sin’s “So You Want To Be A Headliner,” where you learn about all of the things you need to do to establish yourself. I also decided to start producing my own shows. If you produce, you get to book yourself!

It can also feel difficult to get bookings as an over 50, plus sized performer. But, I’ve come to realize that troupes who only book young, thin (and often only white) performers, are not the troupes I want to work with.

What do you believe sets your burlesque performances apart from others in the industry?



“I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. I love those roles and spending time with my family.”

One of my most important lessons has been that I don’t have to look or perform in a certain way. I so admire the super sexy, graceful, classic performers, but my body and soul do not work that way. I often say, “I will seduce you with my awkwardness!” When you see me, you will always get some humor and some raunchiness. I love the interplay of playful and naughty… really, really naughty.

In my opinion, burlesque is this fantastic blend of humor, tease, and sensual performance that intertwines elements of theater, dance, and comedy. Its uniqueness lies in its ability to challenge norms and expectations, embracing individuality and diversity, while celebrating the human form. It engages audiences in a unique way, often breaking the fourth wall and creating an intimate connection between performers and viewers; this is one of my personal favorite things.

Can you share a memorable experience or performance that stands out in your career? I will never forget the feeling of my first performance. I think when I’m 90 years old, I’ll still be able to recall exactly what it felt like. It was like finding home in my body for the first time in my life. My first solo performance also stands out. It’s completely different than being in an ensemble number. Just me and the audience…it’s cool. This past September, my husband, Don Manuel Presents (IG: @donmanuelpresents)

and I produced our first show at the first Fringe Festival at the Foothills Performing Arts Center. I learned so much from that experience!

This past New Year’s Eve, I closed a show with my Candyman balloon pop act. The audience got so into it, I let them pop a bunch of the balloons and they were literally screaming. It was so loud I couldn’t hear my music! I was up on that stage taking that all

times, I have a costume idea that I really want to do, and I need to find a song and an act for it. Recently, I inherited a lifesize cutout wooden reindeer, and I thought, “this has to be in an act!” So, I’m working on a number to “Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer” for the holiday season this year.

I also have two great groups out of Binghamton, NY that do shows almost every month. They are inclusive, supportive environments. Often, I’ll do those shows and do burlesque improv to a song or with a costume idea that I’m mulling about. I just get up there and see what happens, and afterwards I watch the video to see if there’s something there worth developing further.

in and thinking, “This. I want this feeling forever.”

How do you approach the creative process when developing new routines or acts?

It really depends. Sometimes I hear a song and I think, “I HAVE to do a number to this song.” This happened when I heard Billie Eilish’s song “You Should See Me In A Crown.” Other

What do you hope audiences take away from your performances?

At every single show I perform in, at least one person comes up to me after to tell me how much it means to them to see someone who looks like them on the stage. They might be an older person or a person in a larger body, and they see me up there owning those elements of myself and claiming space. Sometimes they ask for a photo with me. Sometimes they cry. This is why diversity in shows is important – BIPOC, queer, disabled, all bodies, all genders…all of it. Everyone deserves to take up space and be seen. I also want to leave audiences with a sense of “did she really just do that?!” I like to combine glam with raunchiness, and I always include humor.

“Burlesque filled in a piece of my soul that I didn’t know was missing. That’s really it. I am more me on the stage performing than I am anywhere else.”

In what ways do you incorporate elements of empowerment or selfexpression into your performances?

Burlesque celebrates all body types, encouraging performers to embrace their uniqueness. It challenges societal beauty standards, promoting body positivity and self-confidence.It offers a platform for performers to express themselves creatively: from choosing their costumes to creating their acts. Burlesque embraces performers of all genders, orientations, and backgrounds. It’s a space where diversity is celebrated, offering a platform for marginalized voices.

How has the burlesque scene evolved since you first started performing, and what changes do you foresee in the future?

The burlesque community is a vibrant, inclusive, and supportive network of performers, producers, and fans who share a passion for the art form. The community welcomes people of all backgrounds, genders, body types, and orientations. It’s a space where diversity is not just accepted but celebrated. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie and support between performers. Dancers often collaborate, share tips, and help each other improve their acts. There’s a mentorship culture where experienced performers guide newcomers. Additionally, the community prioritizes respect for performers’ boundaries and consent. This includes ensuring a safe and comfortable environment for everyone involved.

Could you share any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re excited about?

I have found that I love the entrepreneurial aspects of producing shows through Burlesque Buffet. Our next show, Waffles & Wiggles, is on June 1, 2024 at the ICONIC Funk n Waffles in Syracuse. We are the first ever burlesque show to perform at the venue, and our performer lineup includes some of the best burlesque stars from across New York State. I am wicked excited! Hint hint…get your tickets!

What do you believe are the misconceptions people often have about burlesque, and how do you address them?

Recently, I was talking with someone about performing. After some discussion, they said, “Wow, I might have to rethink going to a burlesque show. I thought burlesque was just stripping with clothes on.” I hear, “It’s Just Striptease” a lot. And, while I am a big supporter of strippers and sex workers, burlesque can include elements of striptease, but it’s not solely focused on nudity. Burlesque is a theatrical performance that combines humor, storytelling, dance, and elaborate costumes. The emphasis is on the art of the tease rather than explicit nudity.

Some people think it’s only for women. While historically it might be more associated with female-presenting performers, burlesque is not exclusive to women. It welcomes performers of all genders, orientations, and identities. Male, non-binary, and transgender performers are integral parts of the burlesque community.

There’s a perception that it lacks skill or

talent. I’m here to tell you, burlesque requires significant skill, creativity, and stage presence. Performers undergo training in dance, choreography, costume design, and theatrical techniques to create captivating and polished acts.

There’s a misconception that it’s not feminist. While there have been discussions about feminism and burlesque due to its historical context, many performers use burlesque as a platform to express feminist ideals. It can be empowering for performers who reclaim their bodies and challenge societal norms through their acts.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a performer, especially during challenging times?

If I’m honest, I sometimes get a wicked case of imposter syndrome right before going on. But, as soon as I hear the first “woop!” from the audience, it all disappears. My husband says I was “made for the stage,” and I often disagree with him…until I’m up there, and then I never want to be anywhere else!

Lastly, what legacy do you hope to leave behind as both a performer and entrepreneur in the burlesque industry?

I hope people see me and realize it’s never too late to start something new and follow your FUCK YES! I started burlesque at 50 years old. I’m 54 now, and I have no intention of stopping any time soon.


“ I loved the way the movements made me feel. I loved the other women in my class. I loved the glamour and naughtiness of it all. The night we performed was like magic.”



Can you introduce yourself and your business, Realistic Health and Wellness WNY, to our readers?

My name is Cailley Macaluso, I am currently and forever 39 years young. I’m married, with three wonderful children, Giorgio, Gianni, and Nicolena, who were once all under the age of five. I’ve been married for 10 and in a relationship with my husband, Sean, for 20 years now. Before having a family I spent many years in higher learning courses, programs, and colleges trying to find out how science was going to be my lifelong career. Since my mid- 20’s, I started with the interest of teaching science then moved to the hands on medical field, where I was accepted into a radiation program to administer radiation therapy to cancer patients. In the same year as I was about to take my boards, I got married and became pregnant before I was able to finish. From there my life changed drastically, which is a story I’ll save for another time, but during that time is what led me to acknowledge I had to find the strength in myself to find my purpose and not look for it anywhere else, which in itself is another story of motivation and enlightenment.

I didn’t just get here by school, I got here by experience. I went through what decades of women before me have gone through to be the women they are today. I struggled for years with mental health, addiction, and releasing the trauma many are starting to open about lately. Releasing things out of our control is a step in becoming mentally healthier. I have made the connection that trauma is the most true and unchanging thing in our story and ours alone. No one understood what I was going through

more than me. I went through years of all the medication they had to offer, testing of the most painful kind, phantom illnesses, and still dissociating. One day in 2021, I literally got up after a bed bender and said, I DON”T WANT TO DIE. Cried it out, wiped my tears, and went to work.

I began my search for alternatives to pharmaceuticals. When cannabis became legal, it began to be medicine for me, the paranoia and shame of using it as such went away. I attended Syracuse University to understand what cannabis was in detail and how it interacts with our body to get more accurate scientific proven desired effects. In continuing to search for alternatives, I began studying nootropics and adaptogens on how, when used in formulations, they can reduce cortisol levels and inflammation. I do the research on companies who are trending on style or science. Third party tested products that provide safe and consistent doses. For 1 ½ years I have been pharmaceutical free . Recovering alcoholic 6 years, May 20, 2018, 8:00pm as well. Which inspired me to follow the “sober curious movement”. While these products and cannabis treatment plans have been life changing, to recover complete mind, body and soul, I inspire and incorporate some moments of meditation for myself and others. I found a reliable and relatable source for therapy that didn’t push meds first. I was on the tracks to death but I’ve slowed the train and now I’m trying to see how long I can go and to help others out of the cycle if they choose to. I’ve Recently opened up a Realistic Health and Wellness Center, located at 6399 Transit Rd. East Amherst, NY 14051, in an effort to help women regulate

body functions using cannabis and/or nootropics. I offer many services from caregiving to treatment plans to drug interaction education and many other considerations in an effort to make cannabis safe and in fact a medicine for you and how to personalize it for yourself.

What inspired you to pursue a degree in healthcare with a focus on cannabis at Syracuse University?

Once cannabis became legal it became medicine for me, like for many others. Before I had a family to care for, I was in radiation therapy, to administer radiation to cancer patients. I didn’t really feel the passion to go back to that field. It wasn’t a place of healing in my opinion and couldn’t see myself being happy in that career long term. After the initial year of the pandemic and homeschooling I was having a rough time. My husband owns an internet marketing company and was staying busy at the time, which was a blessing, but took a toll on me having to stay home with the feeling of no purpose.

I researched many cannabis programs to find the best instructors in the current market. The Green Flower Program was created by many well-known influencers from California state and overseas, who have experienced everything NYS is going through currently first hand. It proved to give the most beneficial information in starting a cannabis business.

What motivated you to transition from studying healthcare to owning your own business, particularly in the health and wellness sector?

Once I completed the program I was able to recognize the need for education on

“I’ve Recently opened up a Realistic Health and Wellness Center, located at 6399 Transit Rd. East Amherst, NY 14051, in an effort to help women regulate body functions using cannabis and/or nootropics.”

cannabis, especially if someone wanted to seriously use it for medicine. So many reasons come to mind as to why, but overall it is to get the education about how it works and even the dangers of using cannabis. Many still ask me to recommend Indica or Sativa, which is a classification of the characteristic of the plant, it’s native origin, not an effect. With WNY close to reservations, which are allowed to grow and dispense without regulations, educating on those dangers was important. I focus on women mostly, with some exceptions, because when women go into dispensaries and ask the dude what he recommends, he’ll most likely pick something high in THC. For women THC can have opposite effects and no treatment value, especially for anxiety. I worried about people not knowing how to start and dismissing something that is quite powerful when used properly. As THC is good for pain and sleep for chronic conditions like cancer only a small amount of THC is required for medical purposes with a proportion to CBD to get optimal entourage effects.

Could you share some of your favorite products available through Realistic Health and Wellness WNY, and what makes them stand out to you?

I carry third party tested medical grade CBD products from companies that also include the minor cannabinoids that have major effects. Companies like Charlotte’s Web, Medterra, and Wyld CBD are brands you’ll find in medical dispensaries, are also here at Realistic. Not all CBD products are created equal and some are just here for the trend. I also carry functional mushroom and psilocybin mushrooms from Troomy, Verdant Leaf, and Trè House. I do carry

a lot of tinctures because medically it is considered the best for full systemic relief. Right now I’m working on a CBG isolate tincture, currently being third party tested at Biotracks lab. It will be launching this summer. CBG is my favorite cannabinoid to recommend because it works on different receptors in a major way to help regulate the Endocannabinoid system. Currently if we go into dispensaries looking for CBG, it is commonly mixed in proportions with CBD or THC, while I try to supply products without THC. Follow me to hear about that launch.

As someone deeply involved in health and wellness, what are some products you personally use and love, and why? Adaptogens is what started the healing of my nervous system. Adaptogens are nootropics, herbs, that when used in combination help regulate cortisol levels. This can be an herb like ashwagandha or lemon balm. Or functional mushrooms like reishi and lion’s mane. I personally love and use psilocybin as way to help with nervous conditions, such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. I currently consult with women and introduce the three methods of titration of using psilocybin. I use all my products and everything I sell is my way of life.

Your approach emphasizes natural alternatives for restoring the body’s ability to manage stress. What sparked your interest in this approach to wellbeing?

I honestly had a problem with wrapping my head around how one pill could help me move on from all of the thoughts in my mind. While others claim it worked for them, it wasn’t working for me. While pills didn’t make me happy and

only more numb and dissociative. With that I entered a rabbit hole of what long term stress can do due to narcissistic abuse and how to reverse it. I found that the result is the shrinkage of our hippocampus, which is your decision making control center. Over time we can develop noticeable brain fog, maybe being diagnosed as adult adhd, then of course being prescribed adderall. I do want to mention, in my opinion, that the label of NPD, narcissistic personality disorder, gets thrown around a lot as well as ADHD. THe way I see it as we are all healing from something some of us just aren’t aware of yet.

The biggest spark though was my acceptance of my trauma that led me to my poor behavior and mindset. I was introduced to a group of women by Chris Belin, owner of The Buffalo Beauty Boost. At these events I met women who had a deeper understanding of life. This is where I started learning how to mentally release past memories that came to haunt me daily. Lana Shapiro, of Soul Healing Center in Clearance, NY helped me reconnect with my truth and showed me how to create positive transformation in my life.

This is why I also share resources to other mind, body and soul healing because what I do is for the body, but all areas of life need to be examined.

Can you discuss some of the transformative choices you’ve made that have positively impacted your daily routine and overall health? The most transformative changes I’ve made in my life was by simply making time for self-care. Filling my own cup so I can fill my loved ones. Taking

The most TRANSFORMATIVE change I’ve made in my life was by simply making time for SELFCARE. Filling my own cup so I can fill my loved ones. Taking MOMENTS for myself when no others are being considered.”
“I focus on women mostly, with some exceptions, because when women go into dispensaries and ask the dude what he recommends, he’ll most likely pick something high in THC. For women THC can have opposite effects and no treatment value, especially for anxiety.”

moments for myself when no others are being considered. This can look like a lot of things like exercise, eating well, or meditating. Loving myself the way I want to be loved. Being the mother to my children, I wish I had, as a motherless child. Finding a tribe of likeminded people who also practice these beliefs to encourage others and keep me on track. Carrying the love and acceptance during my self care over to other areas of my life that needed to be nurtured.

What are some of the key principles you adhere to when selecting and promoting new health and wellness products?

Transparency is my ultimate goal when selecting products. Telling them all the facts lets the client decide which is best for them. Being comfortable with something new is a big part in making holistic approaches work for you. I have a list of considerations I go through with new clients to establish what kind of natural approach they would like to take.

Client goals

Experience level

Setting patient expectations

Trial and error

Exception to every rule

Potential side effects

Self titration


Tracking progress


Dependence versus addiction

How do you stay informed about the latest trends and developments in the health and wellness industry?

That is a great question because there

is a lot of controversial information and studies. There can be 10-15 publications a day, keeping up with it all would be difficult. I start by following agencies that are trying to give truthful information about cannabis. Some research is paid for by the government agencies to prove otherwise about cannabis benefits. Until 2021 only one lab, the NIDA, was permitted to test and research to report back to a federal level about their findings. The results were often found highly unlikely to help condition symptoms. Now many labs are certified to test the effects of cannabis as more states legalize it. Come to find out the cannabis flower the NIDA was testing with was a subpar product even. Finding out who funds those projects and who publishes it is just the beginning. I like to say that there isn’t a lack of information on cannabis, overseas they have done more advancements with cannabis over the years, while The United States has been in prohibition. It was overseas where they isolated THC, it was there they discovered the Endocannabinoid system. The ESC is the system widely spread over your body that regulates hormones and creates homeostasis in the body. An imbalance of the ECS can be the root cause for many incurable autoimmune diseases. I currently follow the work of Doctor Ethan Russo. A predecessor to, Doctor Raphael Mechoulam, the scientist who isolated THC. Dr. Ethan Russo in the last year has published many articles on the advancement in science while America fights over control power and greed.

What advice would you offer to individuals looking to incorporate more natural alternatives into their lifestyle?

If someone is tired of the medication cycle or wants to try natural first to see if it could help prevent the use of medication, small steps can be made. We don’t get the nutrients we should be getting due to overuse of GMO, pesticides, metals and plastics. This can simply be done by changing the place you shop. I go to markets like ALDIs, which follows EU guidelines. I still see Twinkies there, but I know better now. Farmers Markets and Feel Rite markets are under utilized as well. They supply Organic products and foods with guidelines for healthy purposes.

Could you share some insights into the benefits of incorporating CBD products into a wellness routine? Once the ECS is fully established, around 24 or 25, even a low daily dose keeps the ESC stimulated and fills the gaps when our body isn’t producing adequate levels of Endocannabinoids. THC is the only cannabinoid that causes a psychoactive effect when used in high percentages. CBD and all other cannabinoids like CBG or CBN are safer in a sense to use in regards to having any effect on the brain. Full Spectrum CBD contains less than .03% THC, merely for synergy purposes and to achieve a more useful dose for specific conditions and desired effects, but unlikely to have major psychoactive effects. There are exceptions to this rule because we are all different internally in response to medicines. Using the right proportions is a trial and error process that takes time. If you are starting with cannabis, start low and go slowly titrating up to the dose that works for you for at least 2-3 weeks routinely, while tracking your progress.


day in 2021, I literally got up after a bed bender and said, I


Cried it out, wiped my tears, and went to work.”

How do you address misconceptions or concerns about the use of cannabisderived products in health and wellness? My motto is, “cannabis without the high”. I change their minds when they are willing to listen to facts about other cannabinoids. Once they hear I am not pushing THC and I’m willing to hear their concerns and talk about them, it breaks the barrier. The once thought of stoners only sitting and eating on the couch is a misconception. The devastation is all brought on by what we have been told. I love standing up against those opinions and showing people it’s not like that at all.

In what ways do you prioritize sustainability and eco-consciousness in your business practices?

Currently, I have an application for the micro business license. I’m very excited about this license because it really details my priorities of being eco-conscious. My dream is to grow the cleanest greenest organic flower in a constant state of R and D, research and development, leaving little to no carbon imprint. I rarely buy plastic containers or disposable items that can’t be recycled unlike glass or paper products. It’s been my way of life even in my home. To the point it annoys my husband and they call me a tree hugger. I wish everyone had a better sense of

the impact that the garbage they collect in their life will be here long after and start being more resourceful and selfsufficient. I still have room to improve and I’m not perfect, but making small steps can have big long term effects on this planet we are saving for our children and our own health.

Are there any upcoming events or collaborations in the works for Realistic Health and Wellness WNY that you’re excited about?

Cannabis is just a sector of Realistic Health and Wellness. We are fully equipped with energy healing rooms, yoga studio, retreat lodging, or any women who wants to come to be empowered in mind, body and soul. In June, I will be traveling to Florida with my partner, Jamie Powers, to be trained on and experience the healing medicine of Ayahuasca. Once we return, we will be preparing for our first women’s healing retreat set for July 19-22, 2024. I’ve partnered up with a community organization, Pachamama Munai, that has performed these ceremonies for years now and travels to locations to help others heal with an alternative state of consciousness. It is quite interesting to learn about and I’m looking forward to helping others open their lens of consciousness to inspire awareness

and different perspectives in order to release what holds them back in their subconscious.

Of course, there are many collaborators I’ve been working with in healing, but I want to give honorable mention to Mike MacArthur and his team, from All Access CBD Labs. He impressed me with his high standards for quality products. His lab will also be a part of my product roll out and his continued mentorship to ensure transparency is the standard of care.

Finally, what vision do you have for the future of Realistic Health and Wellness WNY, and how do you hope to continue making a positive impact in the community

I hope to be a place where women want to come to release the daily pressures. Find alternatives to dealing with their mental health, body health, and soul health. Start advocating for themselves and become more aware of what they put into their bodies. Creating a safe environment for women to open up about their feelings without judgment and getting more understanding of any situation. Building a community for the collective.



Can you share a bit about yourself and what led you to start Bacardi’s Sunsets Alpaca Farm?

I grew up in Florida, in and out of the system after my dad went to prison. We had limited income growing up and most my brothers, sisters, and cousins battled and still battle meth addiction. And some of the areas of Florida meth is a serious problem, a huge epidemic. After having my daughter and son, we decided to move to New York and take our kids away from that. We wanted them to be raised in a smaller community and with a family business where they wouldn’t have to ever go through what we went through. So we took all of our savings and drove around looking for a nice house. Coincidentally, we drove past a huge farm that was labeled a property in destress. We were able to pick it up for cheap. We did not however know that alpacas we’re going to be a part of that future until we went to a Halloween trunk a treat at Rock City in Little valley and that is where we saw our first alpaca.

that is really who we are doing all this for. And I guess the farm kind of holds a special meaning to us because it was our chance at life and to give our kids more than we came from.

Where is Bacardi’s Sunsets Alpaca Farm located, and what makes this location ideal for raising alpacas?

The farm is located at 558 rt 83 South Dayton NY. South Dayton is actually a farm community. We have farms everywhere. dairy farms, honey, corn,

as the focus of your farm? Was there a specific experience or moment that inspired this choice?

Like I said earlier our first alpaca that we ever saw was at a trunk or treat at Rock City in Little valley and the alpaca was so calm and we went up to the woman and asked if we could pet the alpaca. Alpaca seem to help my anxiety a lot and I’ve never seen a more beautiful creature. It was at that point I decided that I did want to incorporate alpacas into the farm. I think it was about a year later that we went to the same Alpaca farm that had brought the alpaca to the trunk of treat and we bought our first set of alpacas. Couple months after that we realized that they could become a business.

Do you work with any other animals on your farm besides alpacas? If so, how do they complement your alpaca business?

How did you come up with the name “Bacardi’s Sunsets” for your farm? Does it hold a special meaning to you? The name is very special to us. We actually have another another place called “ Lakens Eden”that we will break ground on this summer. Bacardi is the name of our daughter and Laken is the name of our son. We wanted to incorporate both of them into the business because

just tons of farms. I mean my favorite farm and I’m not even sure it’s actually a farm is the maple place that’s down the corner from the farm and when he starts making maple syrup you can literally smell it everywhere. It’s a good location because we can network with other farms and get advice from other farmers. We actually have made some really good friends with other farmers who we admire.

What initially drew you to alpacas

Oh my God, YES. We are so much more than just an alpaca farm. We have cows, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, sheep, tortoises, hedgehogs, macaw, and of course we have alpacas. Most farms go to only have alpacas. We have the variety and sometimes that variety is challenging and we find out new things about our animals everyday, but we kind of like the challenge and it has been fun.

Can you describe your business model and how you sustainably manage your alpaca farm?

Managing the alpacas has its ups and

“Alpaca seem to help my anxiety a lot and I’ve never seen a more beautiful creature. It was at that point I decided that I did want to incorporate alpacas into the farm.”

it’s downs ,like it has its easy sides and it’s not so easy sides. The alpacas whole herd has to be sheared once a year which is a big event that we have at the farm May or June, and it’s pretty much an all day event, once a month they have to have a shot for a worms, and usually they start having babies in July. However some of the bonus parts of alpacas, they are easy to clean after and for the most part they’re pretty friendly. They kind of maintain themselves.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in running a farm, and how have you overcome them?

Our biggest challenge living in South Dayton is South Dayton. I don’t think that the community of South Dayton has made it very easy for us to fit in here. They don’t seem to like outsiders even outsiders that bring something to the table. There were several times and fact that we have thought about closing down and moving but I’m not the kind of person to give up. So now I am at a level where I believe we will show them what we could be bringing to the table, what they are missing out on. There’s actually another Alpaca farm in Cherry Creek that got into alpacas two years after I did and they have tried multiple times to run us out talking make the business into a competition. She was so bitter that she literally had other people that she knew because she grew up in the community block us from going to vendor events and even doing the simplest task as buying feed from the local feed store. And like I said we love a challenge. So we overcame them by expanding our Network and I’m certainly glad we

did or we would have never met you. We also added the variety, and a lot of people seem to like that. Our farm is constantly changing, it’s constantly growing, it is constantly adapting. I can’t even tell you how much having this farm has taught us.

How do you ensure the welfare and happiness of your alpacas while also running a successful business?

We treat our alpacas and other animals like there are pets. To us that is what they are. We go out and we spend time with them ,we love on them, we are very Hands-On with them. When it’s summer out we go out and play with them in the water. We have picnics with them. And we don’t care who pulls up we are always willing to let them interact with the alpacas. You wouldn’t believe how many people pull over on the side of the road and we walk out to the road and tell them oh you don’t have to look at them from a distance you can come on in and pet them. It is so worth it to see their faces when they actually go in with the alpacas. It really makes it worth it.

Are there any unique or interesting facts about alpacas that you think people might not know?

There are many interesting facts about alpacas that I found just mind-boggling. They stay pregnant for about 10 months to 11 months. When they’re laying down it’s called Cushing. They are excellent mothers. The whole herd seems to raise the children. By the way a baby a pack is called a ciria. You can sell their poop, it’s actually excellent fertilizer and they have beautiful fleece. However I think what I would want people to know, they

are heard animals. You should never just get one. They have to have a partner. I see so many people just buy one alpaca and it breaks my heart. They are also not normal farm animals or farm pets. These are still very exotic animals.

What role do you see Bacardi’s Sunsets Alpaca Farm playing in the local community?

I’m not sure that we’re at that point right now with our community. I do have several people in our community that I do admire and look up to. Such as Julie Kerr ,who’s a really good friend of mine and she has been so supportive through this whole farming journey. She works at Austin Mills feed who have also been a big supporter. Mr Gage, another local farmer who has become family, along with Dwayne Emke who had a dairy farm help to. He’s kind of rough around the edges and very old school, but he’s a good man. He’s not afraid to call you out and tell you that you’re screwing up if you’re screwing up. And we have found support with our local grocery store super duper. John has been a tremendous help. And every now and then we come across an ad like we did last year on Facebook asking another farmer for help and we always jump at the opportunity. This is where I met my new sister Stephanie Clark who is actually my mentor and she owns an alpaca farm that has a Airbnb and it’s called Three Springs Alpacas. Then that brings me to Josie who also has a farm although she says it’s not a farm, and they own a lawn mowing service. Honestly there’s so many good people in this community. There are just so many people for me to admire and look up to.

“We have cows, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, sheep, tortoises, hedgehogs, macaw, and of course we have alpacas. ”

Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives at the farm that you’re particularly excited about?

That’s a really good question Kelly. Actually we have several things in the works that were really excited about. We are building a new barn, well the Amish is building it we’re just going to watch. We are also going to have an event where we have a picnic with the animals. We have a tie dye with the alpacas event coming up and it should be a lot of fun. We are also building our kissing booth and that’s going to be pretty

cute and I believe we’re bringing it with us at your event on June 8th. Also we are adding no-kill alpaca rugs and going to be opening are a pack of store in the fall. There is this event that happens every year called alpaca days and we are hoping our farm will be up and running and open to the public for that day. We have also picked a charity or kind of like a give back. We will be making handmade toys for Christmas and donating

How do you engage with your

customers and the broader community to educate them about alpacas and your farm?

Believe it or not we do not have to go outside of our house and order to educate people on alpacas. A great deal of people pull over daily to catch a glimpse of the alpacas and we just allow them to come in. Why they are in the pen and they are playing with the alpacas and the packets are loving on them or they’re feeding the pack of carrots for apples, it’s a great opportunity to share with them everything that we have learned about


“We treat our alpacas and other animals like there are pets. To us that is what they are. We go out and we spend time with them ,we love on them, we are very hands-on with them.”

a package and so many of them are so curious and want to know it makes it so easy. We also want to attend more events so that we can share with other people.

Can you share a memorable moment or story from your time running Bacardi’s Sunsets Alpaca Farm?

Yes in fact I can. We have one of the most amazing alpacas and her name is dream. She was born last year. She is a people alpaca and that’s not always the case with all alpacas. So she started giving us kisses when she was little and now it just has continued to the point that if you’re standing

there she wants a hundred kisses. Well I was talking to someone else that was looking at the alpacas and dream had tried to give me a kiss and after I want to say the fifth kiss I had had like enough so I turned my back on her and started talking to the other person and before I knew it she had jumped on my back and then when I fell down she got her kiss and walked away like nothing had happened.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting their own alpaca farm or similar agricultural business?

Do your research. And when you’re done researching research again because I am absolutely sure you will miss something. Find a good mentor one that actually has your best interest at heart. And this business isn’t big enough to have competitors it’s not a competition and you’re not competing with nobody and if somebody tries to compete with you roll your eyes walk away and find a different approach it’s not worth stressing over. And just enjoy the beauty that the attacker brings with it. These animals are so majestic and peaceful. It’s life-changing.


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Q. Can you share with us a brief overview of yourself, and your coaching business focused on empowering women?

A. For years, I had struggles with low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, trauma, and battles with alcohol and drugs. I recall during that time; I saw darkness and my will to live was becoming less and less. It became difficult to maintain relationships, I was destroying my career. I did not believe I was worthy of a fulfilling life, love, or even happiness. In November of 2011, I hit my last and final bottom. I was introduced to a 12-step program that saved my life. After my journey in sobriety began, I learned to love myself and found my way to healing and self-discovery. I found confidence and strength I didn’t know I had. My journey led me to my calling and passion to use my story to help others in their journey. I started my education with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in 2021 and began my coaching practice. After graduating in May of 2022, I started a program with the Transformation Academy receiving my certification as a transformation life coach. Lori Murphy Coaching-Empowerment Services for Women was born in 2023 after asking myself, who am I talking to in my messaging? I sat in a park on a beautiful summer day reflecting on this question and found

I was talking to the woman I was 12 years ago and was called to work with women who were much like myself. Since then, I have worked with several women on their journeys of health and wellness, growth, healing, and realizing their worth.

Q. What inspired you to become an Empowerment Coach for Women?

A. As a woman, I can relate to the struggles women face daily. I looked

build self-love and self-confidence?

A. When working with a client, we will typically look at where the lack of self-love and self-confidence comes from. We are not born having negative self-talk. We don’t come into this world not having love for ourselves or lacking confidence. It is learned. Someone along the way told us we were unworthy. Someone shamed us for our bodies. Someone told us we weren’t “smart enough”.

at where I was and how I got to where I am today. I sat, reflected, did some writing around it and, most importantly, I talked to God. I believe it is what I was called to do. My inspiration not only came from my own story but God’s guidance.

Q. In your experience, what are some effective strategies for helping clients

Once we learn where the source came from, we can navigate through it and heal from it. I love affirmations and I encourage clients to find loving affirmations that they want to tell themselves and saying it daily, even when they don’t believe it. I believe in the power of affirmations and how they retrain our brain and perception of ourselves. I also encourage my clients to hug themselves and tell them that they love themselves. It may sound silly, but there is power in this! It tells your subconscious that you are worthy of love and compassion. It boosts selfesteem and encourages a healthy and positive image.

Q. Could you walk us through the journey that led you to this career path?

A.As I mentioned, I battled many demons. In 2011, those demons had a strong hold on me, and I was making destructive choices that were

“After my journey in sobriety began, I learned to love myself and found my way to healing and self-discovery. I found confidence and strength I didn’t know I had.”

wreaking havoc in every aspect of my life. In November of 2011, that was when I admitted defeat. It was either I surrender my denial and get honest with myself, or I would for sure lose everything. I had already lost myself and my self-respect, which was more to me than if I lost my car or my home. I went to a 12-step program to begin my journey in recovery from alcoholism. This program and the people in it saved me. I could not have made it without them. I realized I was not alone. They loved me until I learned to love myself.

Throughout the years, I faced many hardships and, what I call, teachable moments. I stopped living as a victim and started taking responsibility and finding solutions. But even during this time, I still chose unhealthy ways to cope with pain. I put down the drink and turned to food. I still smoked cigarettes and in my mid 30’s I could not walk up a flight of stairs without losing my breath. At almost 300 lbs., I decided to make a change to quit smoking and return to the gym. I made small changes after this, weaning out greasy foods, high-sugar foods, and heavily processed foods and introducing nutrition and whole foods into my lifestyle. Diets didn’t work, and I always reverted to old behaviors. I lost weight and I grew stronger. Then I was faced with flashbacks from a traumatic experience that occurred when I was 16 years old. I stuffed it down for many years and never faced it. When the flashbacks started, I couldn’t shake them. I was living in terror. I immediately sought out help and worked through it. I learned how to heal and when I released this trauma, I started a Facebook group called Real Talk Live with Lori Dowling (my maiden

name). In this group, I went Live weekly sharing my journey, inspiring others, and motivating them. I wanted to provide a safe space for people to come and share their struggles, receive support, and know they weren’t alone. This was when I realized I was a coach. This is when I heard my calling.

Q. What motivated you to pursue Holistic Health and Wellness Coaching, and how do you define it?

A. I was motivated once again by my journey in weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle. I lost 150lbs, I was thriving and wanted to share this with others. I find that Holistic Health is looking at the WHOLE picture. Not just what we are eating or how much we exercise. I define it as being healthy in our careers, relationships, creativity, mental health, etc. It is the full circle of our life and having it aligned.

Q. Between coaching clients towards a healthier lifestyle and aiding in their career development, which do you find more enjoyable?

A. I must be honest; I enjoy all of it. I enjoy the connection with each client. Guiding them in whatever their goal is, whether it’s weight loss or wanting to get that promotion at work, is a blessing. I am honored to be trusted as a guide in their journey!

Q. Can you describe your ideal client and the traits you look for when working with them?

A. Ideally, the most important thing is their willingness to commit. They aren’t showing up for me, they are showing up for themselves. They are not investing in me; they are investing in themselves.

It is an important step to take to build self-love and self-confidence. Being ready to push through the fear and negative self-talk to trust that they are worth this!

Q. How do you tailor your coaching approach to suit the individual needs and goals of your clients?

A. I listen to them. I hear their words. I feel their energy. I go into each session completely present. This way I am in tune with what they need at that moment, provide a safe and comfortable space, and provide insight through love and understanding. If they need a push, I provide it. If they need accountability, I have their back. If they need direction, I show them the way.

Q. What are some common challenges you’ve observed among your clients, and how do you address them?

A. Most commonly, clients are held down by fear, and they have been bullied and have faced great pain. The women I have worked with and currently work with are extremely resilient and strong. I guide them through fear and support them in facing it. We work together to see their true self and their worth by setting small goals each week that they can achieve without overwhelm. This allows them to celebrate the wins and see how amazing they are!

Q. Could you share a success story from your coaching practice that highlights the impact of your work?

A. I have to say, I give credit to my clients for taking action to succeed. They all stand out, but I will share one story. I had a client referred to me when I was early on in my coaching practice. They were in a very dark space, battling


find that Holistic Health is looking at the WHOLE picture. I define it as being healthy in our careers, relationships, creativity, mental health, etc. It is the full circle of our life and having it aligned.”

alcoholism and ready to completely give up. We worked together for 6 months. They had dreams of being a writer and living a sober life. Today, they are sober, have published their first book, and are pursuing a new career in real estate. I have watched this person overcome pain and fear. They are creating a life they can be proud of. To say I am proud of them is an understatement.

Q. In your opinion, what role does mindset play in achieving overall well-being and success?

A. I believe mindset is everything! If I still lived in darkness, telling myself I wasn’t worthy or I would never be successful, I would not be able to get up each day and put energy into my practice. I must tell myself daily, I can do this, I AM doing this, I am worthy, and I am capable. I still have moments of discouragement, but I keep telling myself I am capable and worthy and show up anyway.

Q. How do you incorporate mindfulness and self-care practice into your coaching session?

A. I meet my clients where they are. If they come to a call upset or overwhelmed, we pause and do some deep breathing together. I encourage clients to practice this daily or do a guided meditation to help with stress and anxiety. When they are discouraged or feel they didn’t do well with a goal I allow them to give themselves grace and remind them they are human. Self-care is more than manicures and massages. Sometimes we need to pause, breathe, and meditate to connect with ourselves, and our feelings and find calm and peace.

Q. What advice would you give to women who are struggling to balance their personal life and professional lives?

A. This is a good question as I am still working on this myself. I have a hard time shutting off my brain from business. I find scheduling out my day and having a system is working. I am working on not working on business when I am with my husband and keeping weekends for date nights. Sometimes, I do have to finish some tasks that I couldn’t do during the week while working full-time, cooking dinner and house chores. So,

I wake up early on weekends to make time for this. It is a work in progress!

Q. How do you stay updated on the latest trends and research in empowerment coaching and holistic wellness?

A. I love listening to podcasts in the morning that focus on these areas. I participate in training and certification programs. I love to read and listen to audiobooks. I have grown to love education and the more I have to offer my clients, the more valuable my practice becomes.

Q. What do you hope your clients take away from working with you, both in the short term and long term?

A. I hope they take away newfound love for themselves. I hope they see how amazing they are and how strong they are. I hope they have the tools they need to keep moving forward. I hope that they can face fear and turn into power. Most of all, I hope that they thrive in all that they do!



Can you introduce yourself, Heidi? Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey with Pivot Learning Solutions. I am Heidi Carson, owner of Pivot Learning Solutions. I began my journey in the behavioral health sector and psychology, focusing on providing consulting services to local health care facilities. My journey always presented as an organic process, venturing out on my own in 2008 as a training and development/learning strategist consultant. A visionary leader and expert in organizational development and learning strategies with 20 years of experience in the field, I have always dedicated my career in helping businesses and individuals thrive through effective organizational strategies and continuous learning initiatives.

As the founder and CEO of Pivot Learning Solutions, I have positioned myself in being instrumental in transforming countless organizations, guiding them towards sustainable growth and success. I combine a unique blend of academic knowledge, the practice of industry best standards and years of experience. I received my first MS degree from the University of Rochester, Warner School of Education and Human Development. I have always made it a priority to connect with people to help gain practical insights into what they need to expand their capabilities and talents. This helps me to tailor innovative solutions that address the specific needs of each client.

Known for my dynamic approach and commitment to excellence, I have earned a reputation for delivering results that exceed expectations. My core belief is embedded in empowering individuals

and teams to unlock their full potential, fostering a culture of collaboration, creativity, and continuous improvement. All this demanding work paved the way for Pivot Learning Solutions to become a WBE enterprise and certified by New York State.

My passion for organizational development extends beyond my professional endeavors. I am actively involved community endeavors and when I am not working, I enjoy time with my pets, actively working out and spending time at the ocean in Cape Cod. “Learning isn’t enough, it needs direction. I design strategic learning journeys that bridge the gap between knowledge and organizational goals.”

What inspired you to become a woman entrepreneur, particularly in the field of a learning strategist?

Becoming a woman entrepreneur in the field of organizational learning, I was inspired by a profound combination of personal passion, professional experiences, and a commitment to making a meaningful impact.

From a personal perspective, my journey is rooted in a deep-seated belief in the power of individuals to achieve greatness when equipped with the right resources, opportunities, and support. Growing up, I witnessed firsthand the transformative effect of mentorship and empowerment on individuals’ lives, particularly for women facing systemic barriers in the workplace. These experiences ignited a fire within me to dedicate myself to fostering environments where every individual can thrive and reach their full potential.

Professionally, I have navigated various roles in organizational learning and development, gaining invaluable insights into the challenges and opportunities inherent in nurturing and leveraging talent effectively. Through these experiences, I recognized the critical importance of strategic thinking in talent empowerment—aligning individuals’ strengths and aspirations with organizational goals to drive sustainable success.

Moreover, as a woman in business, I have encountered and overcome my fair share of obstacles and biases, fueling my determination to create a more inclusive and equitable landscape for future generations of female entrepreneurs and leaders. This personal journey of resilience and empowerment further fuels my passion for championing strategic talent empowerment as a catalyst for organizational excellence and societal progress.

My journey as a woman entrepreneur in the field of learning and development is driven by a deeply held belief in the transformative power of individuals, coupled with a strategic mindset and a commitment to driving positive change in the world.

As a senior learning strategist/ consultant, could you explain what this role entails and its significance for businesses?

As a senior learning strategist, my role revolves around partnering with businesses to maximize the potential of their human capital through strategic initiatives and empowerment programs. Here is a breakdown of what this role entails and its significance for businesses:

“My journey as a woman entrepreneur in the field of learning and development is driven by a deeply held belief in the transformative power of individuals, coupled with a strategic mindset and a commitment to driving positive change in the world.”

Strategic Planning: I work closely with business leaders to align talent management strategies with overall organizational objectives. This involves understanding the company’s goals, identifying talent gaps, and developing comprehensive plans to recruit, develop, and retain top talent in line with the company’s strategic direction.

Talent Development: This entails the design and implement initiatives aimed at developing employees’ skills, knowledge, and abilities to meet current and future business needs. This may include training programs, leadership development initiatives, mentorship opportunities, and career advancement pathways tailored to individual and organizational goals.

Performance Management: This can be tricky as you must establish performance management systems that provide ongoing feedback, recognition, and support to employees, enabling them to continuously improve and excel in their roles. This may involve implementing performance metrics, conducting regular performance evaluations, and providing coaching and development opportunities. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives: Sometimes overlooked in some organizations. I support businesses in creating and implementing DEI initiatives that promote fairness, equality, and belonging in the workplace. This may include developing policies and practices to address bias, promoting diversity in hiring and promotion processes, and fostering a culture of respect and acceptance for all employees.

The significance of a senior learning strategist role for businesses cannot be overstated. By investing in their people

and creating an environment where every employee feels valued, supported, and empowered to reach their full potential, businesses can unlock higher levels of productivity, innovation, and employee engagement. Moreover, strategic talent empowerment initiatives contribute to building a strong employer brand, attracting top talent, and enhancing the organization’s competitive advantage in the marketplace. By prioritizing their human capital and fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth, businesses can achieve long-term success and sustainability in an ever-evolving business landscape.

What specific services does Pivot Learning Solutions offer to its clients? Talent Strategy Development, Development of eLearning courses, organizational change, personalized learning initiatives, organizational learning approaches, talent assessment and development, instructional design, leadership development, employee engagement and retention, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives, and change management. Overall, learning strategist play a crucial role in helping organizations optimize their talent management practices achieving business success and maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Could you share some insights into your background and how it has influenced your approach to learning and development?

With 20 years of experience and a master’s degrees under my belt, my background provides a rich tapestry of knowledge and skills that influences my approach as an organizational learning strategist. Also, my experience means I have

encountered a wide range of organizational challenges and opportunities. I have also seen various strategies succeed and fail, giving you a nuanced understanding of what works and what does not in talent management and learning development.

My formal education in psychology and adult education and experience indicates a commitment to continuous learning and a depth of expertise in relevant fields. Depending on the specific focus of the organizational needs, my extensive knowledge of psychology, organizational behavior, education, business management, and other related disciplines. These areas of study provide me with both theoretical frameworks and practical tools for designing effective learning strategies that are aimed at exceeding learning and business goals. My approach as a strategist is influenced by a combination of academic theory and real-world experience. I blend evidencebased practices with innovative solutions, drawing from a deep understanding of both the theoretical underpinnings and the practical realities of organizational dynamics.

Overall, my background as a senior learning strategist equips me with a unique blend of expertise, experience, and perspective, allowing me to develop tailored strategies that drive organizational success and foster employee growth and development.

How have you supported your clients in adapting to remote work dynamics, especially considering recent changes? The short answer is yes! I find that the following areas have become a major consideration for many organizations. Remote Work Training Programs:

“Learning isn’t enough, it needs direction. I design strategic learning journeys that bridge the gap between knowledge and organizational goals.”

Develop customized training programs focused on remote work skills and best practices. This could include modules on effective virtual communication, time management in a remote setting, using remote collaboration tools, and maintaining productivity and focus while working from home.

Leadership Development for Remote Managers: Offer leadership development programs specifically designed for managers of remote teams. This may involve coaching sessions, workshops, or online courses to help managers develop skills such as remote team building, virtual performance management, and fostering a culture of trust and accountability in a remote setting.

Digital Upskilling: Identify skill gaps that may arise because of transitioning to remote work and provide targeted digital upskilling programs to address these gaps. This could include training in digital collaboration tools, data security awareness, remote project management methodologies, and virtual presentation skills.

Remote Onboarding and Integration: Develop remote onboarding programs to help new hires acclimate to their roles and the company culture in a virtual environment. Provide resources, mentorship, and virtual networking opportunities to facilitate a smooth integration process for remote employees. Virtual Learning Communities: Facilitate virtual learning communities or peerto-peer networks where employees can share experiences, exchange tips, and support each other in navigating the challenges of remote work. This can help foster a sense of belonging and

camaraderie among remote employees. Flexible Learning Formats: Offer learning resources in flexible formats that accommodate the diverse needs and schedules of remote workers. This could include on-demand e-learning modules, virtual workshops, live webinars, and self-paced learning paths accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Remote Performance Management: Assist clients in adapting their performance management processes to effectively evaluate and support remote employees. This may involve defining clear performance metrics, establishing regular check-ins and feedback mechanisms, and leveraging technology for performance tracking and assessment.

Promotion of Well-being and Work-Life Balance: Integrate well-being initiatives into learning and development programs to support the mental and emotional health of remote workers. Offer resources on stress management, mindfulness practices, work-life balance strategies, and encourage regular breaks and boundaries between work and personal life.

In terms of customer centricity, how do you assist businesses in enhancing their customer-focused approach? Improving customer-centricity involves understanding customer needs, preferences, and pain points to tailor products, services, and experiences accordingly. Here is how I can assist businesses in enhancing their customerfocused approach:

Data Analysis: A call to action that helps businesses analyze customer data to identify trends, patterns, and behaviors. This can include customer feedback, purchasing history, demographic

information, and more.

Customer Feedback: Businesses can gather feedback from customers through surveys, reviews, and social media. I can assist in analyzing this feedback to extract valuable insights and identify areas for improvement.

Personal Development: By analyzing customer data, I can help businesses create detailed customer personas. These personas represent different segments of their target audience and help in understanding their needs, preferences, and behaviors.

Personalization: Personalized experiences can significantly enhance customer satisfaction. I can assist businesses in implementing personalized marketing campaigns, product recommendations, and customer support interactions based on individual preferences and behaviors. Customer Journey Mapping: Understanding the customer journey from awareness to purchase and beyond is crucial for delivering a seamless experience. I can help businesses map out the customer journey and identify touchpoints where improvements can be made.

Training and Development: Educating employees about the importance of customer-centricity and providing them with the necessary skills and tools to deliver exceptional customer service is essential. I can assist in developing training programs and materials focused on customer-centric principles.

Technology Integration: Leveraging technology such as CRM systems, AIpowered chatbots, and analytics tools



“Known for my dynamic approach and commitment to excellence, I have earned a reputation for delivering results that exceed expectations.”

can streamline processes and improve the overall customer experience. I can provide guidance on selecting and implementing the right technology solutions for businesses.

Continuous Improvement: Customercentricity is an ongoing journey that requires continuous monitoring and adjustment. I can help businesses set up feedback loops, track key performance indicators, and iterate on their customerfocused initiatives to ensure long-term success.

Can you elaborate on how you help businesses align their goals and empower both organizations and employees to achieve their full potential?

Aligning goals and empowering both organizations and employees involves creating a sharp vision, fostering a supportive environment, providing resources, and training, and encouraging collaboration. Here is how I assist businesses in achieving these goals:

Goal Setting: I can help businesses define clear and achievable goals that align with their overall mission and vision. Whether it is increasing revenue, improving customer satisfaction, or expanding into new markets, I can provide guidance on setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals. Communication: Effective communication is essential for aligning goals and ensuring everyone is on the same page. I can assist businesses in developing communication strategies to convey goals, expectations, and progress updates clearly and consistently across the organization.

Employee Engagement: Engaged

employees are more likely to be motivated, productive, and committed to achieving organizational goals. I can help businesses implement strategies to boost employee engagement, such as recognition programs, professional development opportunities, and fostering a positive work culture.

Performance Management: Monitoring progress towards goals is crucial for success. I can assist businesses in implementing performance management systems to track key performance indicators (KPIs), provide regular feedback, and identify areas for improvement.

Training and Development: Investing in employee training and development is essential for empowering employees to reach their full potential. I can help businesses identify training needs, develop training programs, and provide resources to enhance employee skills and knowledge.

Empowerment: Empowering employees involves giving them the autonomy and authority to make decisions and take ownership of their work. I can assist businesses in creating a culture of empowerment by delegating responsibility, providing support and resources, and recognizing and rewarding initiative and innovation.

Collaboration: Collaboration across teams and departments is essential for achieving common goals. I can assist businesses in fostering collaboration through tools and processes that facilitate communication, knowledge sharing, and cross-functional teamwork.

Feedback and Recognition: Providing

feedback and recognition is essential for motivating employees and reinforcing desired behaviors. I can help businesses implement feedback mechanisms and recognition programs to acknowledge and reward employee contributions towards achieving organizational goals.

What are some of the workforce training solutions you provide to address various needs and challenges?

Upskilling and Reskilling: Microlearning: Bite-sized learning modules that target specific skills or knowledge gaps. Ideal for busy professionals or introducing new concepts.

Online Courses: Comprehensive eLearning platforms with video lectures, interactive exercises, and assessments. Offer flexibility and scalability.

Mentorship Programs: Pair experienced employees with newcomers for personalized learning and career guidance. Leadership and Soft Skills Development: Communication Skills Workshops: Enhance written, verbal, and presentation skills for effective communication across all levels.

Teamwork and Collaboration Training: Foster effective teamwork dynamics, conflict resolution, and problem-solving within teams.

Leadership Development Programs: Equip managers with coaching, delegation, and strategic thinking skills to lead high-performing teams.

Compliance and Industry-Specific Training:

Certification Programs: Prepare employees for industry-recognized certifications,

“As the founder and CEO of Pivot Learning Solutions, I have positioned myself in being instrumental in transforming countless organizations, guiding them towards sustainable growth and success.”

demonstrating expertise in specific areas. Regulatory Compliance Training: Ensure employees are up to date on legal requirements and safety protocols relevant to your industry.

Additionally, consider these delivery methods to cater to different learning styles:

Instructor-Led Training: Classroombased sessions with live interaction and facilitation.

Blended Learning: Combine online modules with instructor-led sessions for a comprehensive approach.

Gamification: Incorporate game mechanics like points, badges, and leaderboards to boost engagement and motivation.

Remember, the best solutions will depend on your specific needs assessment. Consider factors like:

Skills Gaps: Identify the knowledge and abilities your workforce needs to excel in their roles.

Learning Preferences: Understand how your employees prefer to learn (visually, kinesthetically, etc.)

By offering a diverse range of training solutions, you can empower your workforce to adapt, grow, and thrive in today’s dynamic work environment.

Do you offer training courses exclusively online, or do you also conduct inperson sessions?

I offer personalized in-person training and consulting services as well as online scalable learning initiatives that are tailored to meet the specific needs of my clients.

This approach ensures a customized experience that fosters engagement, collaboration, and tangible results for my clients.

Could you outline some of your objectives and goals as a woman in business? I feel that as a female business owner you must work a bit harder to highlight your talent and prove your capabilities. We are examples and inspiration for future female entrepreneurs and therefore have the privilege of instilling that with drive, ambition, and authenticity, we can achieve our dreams. With, my advice is always stay true to yourself and maintain self-confidence, even in the face of challenges. “This too shall pass.”

How do you balance the demands of entrepreneurship with personal and professional growth?

I focus on doing things to take care of myself. Being aware of good self-care, boundaries, and maintaining healthy relationships. It is also extremely prudent to be authentic with yourself and others and honor your journey by recognizing what you need to hold-on to and what you need to let go of.

Balancing the demands of entrepreneurship with personal and professional growth is a dynamic journey requiring resilience, self-awareness, and strategic prioritization. While the entrepreneurial path often demands relentless dedication to business success, neglecting personal and professional development can lead to burnout and stagnation. Therefore, it is vital for me to carve out intentional time for self-reflection, skill enhancement, and nurturing meaningful relationships alongside business pursuits. Embracing an integrated approach that integrates

personal well-being, continuous learning, and career advancement fosters sustainable growth, enriching both the entrepreneur and their ventures overall.

In your experience, what are some common misconceptions about organizational learning?

Organizational learning is not confined to formal training, nor is it a linear or individualistic process alone. It is integral to performance improvement and strategic adaptation, requiring a comprehensive approach that encompasses both individual and collective knowledge. I also believe that below are issues and misconceptions that serve as roadblocks and impact many businesses ability to experience high retention and a positive organizational culture.

Learning Equals Training: Many believe that organizational learning is solely achieved through formal training programs. However, learning also occurs through experiences, interactions, and reflection within the organization.

Learning is a Linear Process: Some assume that learning within organizations follows a linear trajectory, where knowledge is acquired steadily over time. Learning is often iterative, messy, and non-linear, involving setbacks and breakthroughs. Learning is Limited to Individuals: Organizational learning extends beyond individual employees to include collective knowledge creation, sharing, and application. It involves capturing and leveraging insights from across the organization.

Learning is Separate from Performance: There is a misconception that learning is distinct from performance improvement. Effective organizational learning enhances


“By leveraging your talents, passion, and determination, you can make a meaningful impact in shaping the future of organizational learning while paving the way for future generations of women entrepreneurs in the field.”

performance by enabling individuals and teams to adapt, innovate, and excel in their roles.

Learning is Optional: Organizations may mistakenly view learning as optional or a luxury rather than a strategic imperative for long-term success. In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, continuous learning is essential for staying competitive and relevant.

What trends do you foresee shaping the future of a senior learning strategist?

I see many trends shaping the future of organizational learning and as well as a robust return to soft-skill training and the call for personalized learning experiences. I have also seen an increased demand for personal and professional growth/ development plans. As a senior learning strategist, staying ahead of future trends is essential to ensure effective learning and development initiatives. Here is a summary of key trends to consider:

Personalized Learning Paths: Customizing learning experiences to individual needs will continue to gain momentum. Leveraging data analytics and AI, organizations will tailor learning paths based on employees’ skills, preferences, and career goals.

Microlearning: Short, focused learning modules will dominate as attention spans decrease and the demand for just-intime learning rises. Bite-sized content delivered through mobile devices will enable employees to learn on the go. Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR)

powered by Ai: Immersive technologies will revolutionize training by creating realistic simulations and interactive experiences. VR/AR will be used for direct training in high-risk industries, soft skills development, and remote collaboration. We will see Ai play a tremendous role in the areas of organizational learning and talent development.

Gamification and Serious Games: Integrating game elements into learning experiences will enhance engagement and motivation. Serious games, designed for educational purposes, will simulate real-world scenarios to teach critical thinking skills and decisionmaking.

Continuous Learning Culture: Lifelong learning will be ingrained in organizational culture as employees adapt to rapid technological advancements. Companies will invest in continuous training programs to upskill and reskill their workforce, fostering agility and innovation.

Remote and Hybrid Learning: The shift to remote work will persist, driving the need for flexible and accessible learning solutions. Hybrid learning models combining virtual and in-person experiences will cater to diverse learner preferences and geographical locations.

Soft Skills Development: As automation increases, soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence will be highly valued. Learning initiatives will focus on developing these skills to foster effective teamwork and leadership.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Training: Organizations will prioritize DEI training to create inclusive workplaces and address systemic biases. Learning programs will emphasize cultural competence, unconscious bias awareness, and allyship.

Data-driven Learning Analytics: Harnessing big data and predictive analytics will enable organizations to measure the effectiveness of learning interventions and identify areas for improvement. Real-time feedback and insights will drive continuous optimization of learning strategies.

Sustainable and Ethical Learning Practices: There will be a growing emphasis on ethical sourcing of learning content and sustainable practices in learning delivery. Organizations will prioritize environmentally friendly options and promote social responsibility in their learning initiatives.

Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring women entrepreneurs looking to enter the field of organizational learning? For aspiring women entrepreneurs venturing into the field of organizational learning, I would advise embracing your unique strengths and perspectives as assets in this dynamic industry. Always leverage your expertise through continuous learning and seek opportunities to innovate and differentiate your offerings. Build a dedicated support network of mentors, peers, and collaborators who can offer guidance and encouragement along your entrepreneurial journey. Be bold in pursuing your vision and advocating for the value you bring to clients and organizations.



Can you introduce yourself and give us an overview of E. B. Howard Consulting?

Christine E.B. Howard, the visionary founder and CEO of E.B. Howard Consulting. E.B. Howard Consulting is a certified Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise dedicated to guiding clients in securing, applying for, and evaluating the impact of non-dilutive grant funding. Her commitment to fostering equal and equitable funding opportunities for historically marginalized founders in the startup community underscores her dedication to nurturing an innovation ecosystem conducive to inclusive economic development. Christine firmly believes that inclusivity is not just beneficial but essential for sparking innovation and cultivating a robust, diverse economy that benefits all members of society.

Her engagement with the entrepreneurial community extends through her active mentoring and advisory roles in prestigious programs such as the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps™), Columbia Technology Ventures, the Verizon Forward for Good Accelerator, NYSERDA’s Entrepreneurin-Residence Program, Startup Grind, and several others. Her expertise is also sought after as a pitch judge in various startup competitions, including 43North, Female Founders in Tech (spanning FinTech and InsurTech sectors), E^3, and the New York Business Plan Competition (NYBPC), among many.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Christine’s commitment to community and societal advancement is evident through her service on multiple boards, including the Buffalo/Niagara National

Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Ten Thousand Villages, The Upstate Capital Foundation, and Community Connections of New York, Inc. (CCNY).

Her contributions and leadership have been recognized through numerous accolades, such as her induction into the Haverling Hall of Distinction with the Alumni Award in June 2019 and the Parsons Community Service Award in October 2018. The latter celebrated her instrumental role alongside a team of women business owners in addressing the challenges faced by Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MWBE) in New York State.

Christine holds an Associate Degree from SUNY Corning, two Bachelor’s Degrees, and a Master’s Degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

With over 20 years of experience in non-dilutive funding development, grant writing, and program evaluation, she is a proven leader in designing evidence-based projects, overseeing their implementation, and refining them through continuous feedback for enhanced effectiveness.

E.B. Howard Consulting helps clients find, apply for, and measure outcomes from non-dilutive grant funding. E.B. Howard Consulting believes that nondilutive funding is a key tool for de-risking investments, and we are dedicated to guiding our clients through the entire process, from identifying the most suitable opportunities to submitting and managing grant applications.

E.B. Howard Consulting works with

high-growth for-profit startups and small businesses, as well as organizations and consortiums in the startup and innovation ecosystem. Our clients are typically early-stage companies with innovative, STEM-based solutions to social, cultural, or environmental challenges. They are focused on commercializing their technologies or propelling the innovation ecosystem forward. Our clients have domain expertise, strong teams, and evidence of early traction. They also have a clear path to revenue within 12-18 months and a compelling value proposition.

What services does E. B. Howard Consulting offers to its clients?

E.B. Howard Consulting provides the following three (3) services to its clients.

● Funding Opportunity Identification:

We have an experienced team that excels at researching and identifying funding opportunities that align with your project’s goals and objectives. This involves scouring government agencies, private foundations, and industry-specific programs to find grants and competitions that match your unique needs.

● Grant Writing: We will work closely with you to understand your project, objectives, and vision and then create a customized grant proposal that maximizes your chances of success.

● Program and Project Evaluation for Post-Award Reporting: We will assist you in fulfilling post-award reporting requirements, ensuring that you meet all obligations and maximize the benefits of your grant. We understand the importance of accountability and transparency in grant management.

“My entrepreneurial spirit showed itself early – as a kid, I loved turning our porch into make-believe businesses! But the path wasn’t always clear.”

If you had to describe yourself in one word that your clients often use, what would it be and why?

Oh, that is a challenge. One word is “Knowledgeable”. I and my team spend a great deal of time educating potential clients through talks at conferences, webinars, podcasts, and one-on-one consultations surrounding best practices, what to do and not do, and guidance on application processes.

What motivated you to pursue consulting, particularly in the areas of grant funding and assisting highgrowth startups and small businesses?

The heart-dropping moment my boss said “laid-off” changed everything. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur. All my life, the message was clear: college, then a secure job. The idea of owning a business felt like someone else’s dream.

Growing up, I’d play “restaurant” on the porch, but that was just a game. Still, looking back, maybe the seeds were planted then. Yet, the constant drumbeat was ‘focus on your JOB’.

The identity crisis after losing my position was real. “What do you do?” they ask, expecting a confident answer. How do you explain the void without sounding like a failure?

2013 was already a nightmare—deaths in the family and my father’s cancer diagnosis. Then came the layoff. I applied for jobs, surprised by the volume of interviews. But quickly, I could sense a company’s culture and whether I’d fit. These weren’t opportunities; they were lessons in what I didn’t want for my future.

Then a chance encounter in LA changed everything. At the Rainbow Bar, venting to an old friend, his words hit like a thunderbolt: “You haven’t arrived until you’ve been fired or laid off... You know what to do. You’ve arrived, now change the world.”

His words hit me like a lightning bolt. Too many naysayers had drowned out my own voice. Nine years in program evaluation had shown me just how much misinformation surrounded grants – their uses, limitations, and how small businesses were so often left in the dark. Here I was, in this iconic bar, with a rock star’s wisdom handed to me. That’s the night E.B. Howard Consulting was born.

We’ve come so far since that day. I didn’t know it then, but getting laid off was the best thing that could’ve happened. Without it, none of this – none of me – would exist. And neither would the chance to give small businesses and high-growth startups the clarity about grants I never had myself.

Could you share a bit about your background and how it led you to where you are today?

My entrepreneurial spirit showed itself early – as a kid, I loved turning our porch into make-believe businesses! But the path wasn’t always clear. There was a lot of external pressure to follow a traditional career route. That led me to program evaluation, where I spent nearly a decade. While I valued that work, I saw a major problem: small businesses and ambitious startups were drowning in misinformation about grants. There was just no clear guidance on how this funding could empower growth.

My experience in program and project evaluation, particularly in post-award reporting, became a springboard. Often, I was asked to help craft the evaluation sections of grant proposals. Seeing how critical this element was to securing funding sparked a passion within me. It wasn’t enough to just evaluate programs— I wanted to help businesses unlock the potential of grants in the first place.

Then, life took an unexpected turn. Getting laid off in 2013 was an identity crisis at first. But a turning point came during a trip to LA, of all places. That clarity was transformative. It’s what led me to found E.B. Howard Consulting. My mission is simple: I want to give businesses the grant knowledge and support I desperately needed back when I was starting out. It’s been an incredible journey, and honestly, that layoff was the best thing that could have happened. It set me on the path to making a difference in a way that truly aligns with my passion.

How do you define and measure success in your consulting work?

Success at E.B. Howard Consulting is multifaceted. Of course, the immediate goal is to help clients secure the funding they need to grow. But to me, true success goes deeper:

● Client Empowerment: I don’t just want to get clients funded; I want to give them the knowledge and tools to navigate the grants landscape independently longterm. Success is when a client not only succeeds with a particular grant but understands the broader funding world.

● Removing Intimidation: Many businesses assume grants are out of


at E.B.

Howard Consulting is multifaceted. Of course, the immediate goal is to help clients secure the funding they need to grow.”

can use effectively.

● Impact Beyond the Grant: I measure success by what clients do with the funding. Seeing a new product launch, jobs created, or a community program expand – that’s when I know I’ve been a catalyst for positive change.

● Metrics Matter: While funding and impact are key, I also track quantifiable metrics. Client satisfaction surveys, repeat business rates, and the effectiveness of our knowledge transfer processes are all part of measuring success.

Ultimately, success means our clients have the funds and confidence to achieve their vision—that’s what makes this work so rewarding.

What does the process of finding, applying for, and measuring outcomes on non-dilutive grant funding entail? If you’re a business owner with a brilliant idea – maybe it expands your product line, creates jobs, or unproven technology/ innovation. But to turn it into reality, you need funding. That’s where the hunt for non-dilutive funding (funding that does not take equity) can help.

The hunt for funding is like a treasure map with hidden clues. You start by deciphering the landscape: Are there grants designed for your specific industry? Does your location make you eligible? Your business goals are the compass guiding you toward the right opportunities. Databases like our (a product of E.B. Howard Consulting) are your atlases, while networking with similar businesses can reveal secret pathways to lesser-known sources of funding.

Once you’ve got promising leads, it’s time to craft your treasure hunt proposal – a.k.a; the funding opportunity’s application. This is where you need meticulous attention to detail, weaving a story of why your project matters. What treasure will your idea unlock for your community or within your field? That’s the tale the funder wants to hear! And don’t forget the hard numbers—budgets, measurable goals, and a clear plan of how you’ll track your progress—these are the proof you’re a reliable explorer capable of seeing this quest through.

If you win the treasure (get the funding!), the adventure isn’t over. You’ve got to carefully navigate those funds. Gather data from the start as though you’re marking your progress on the map – client surveys, financial reports, anything that shows if you’re headed toward the “X” that marks the spot you promised. At the journey’s end, present your findings to the funder like a triumphant explorer offering proof of what they made possible. This isn’t just about compliance – it’s about showing your impact and potentially unlocking even more treasure in the future. Non-dilutive grant funding is a powerful tool, but like any quest, it requires savvy, preparation, and a willingness to document your voyage. The reward? Not just the funds, but the growth and transformation they fuel for your business.

Here is a quick overview of what small businesses need to know.

● Regarding Finding the Right Funding: 1) Specificity is Key: Research grant opportunities that align tightly with your business’s goals, industry, location, and any specific eligibility criteria. 2) Databases: Utilize resources like,,

state and local government websites, foundation directories, and specialized grant finders for your niche. 3) Networking: Connect with similar businesses, industry associations, and economic development organizations, as they may be aware of lesser-known funding opportunities.

● Regarding the Application Process: 1) Meticulous Preparation: Funding applications are notoriously detailed. Gather all required information well in advance, including budgets, project plans, and supporting documentation. 2) Compelling Narrative: Tell the story of your project – why is it important, what problem does it solve, and how will it have a measurable impact? 3) Evaluation Plan: Most grants require outcome measurement. Clearly define your project’s goals and the methods you’ll use to track success.

● Regarding Measuring Outcomes: 1) Baseline Data: Before the project begins, establish starting metrics to measure progress against. 2) Reporting Systems: Set up systems for collecting relevant data throughout the grant period, whether that’s client surveys, financial reports, or other metrics related to your project goals. 3) Final Evaluation: Upon project completion, conduct a thorough evaluation comparing outcomes to your initial goals. This data is often required by the funder and can inform future grant applications.

Things to consider that are important for your small business or startup: 1) Competition: Many grants are highly competitive. Ensure your application is exceptional and clearly aligns with the funder’s mission. 2) Time Investment: The application process can be time-

“The identity crisis after losing my position was real. “What do you do?” they ask, expecting a confident answer. How do you explain the void without sounding like a failure?”

-consuming. Be prepared to invest significant resources. 3) Post-Award Requirements: Grant funding often comes with reporting and compliance obligations. Factor these into your project planning.

Why does this matter? Non-dilutive funding is a powerful tool for businesses. It offers capital without giving up equity, potentially fueling growth, innovation, and community impact.

Can you share a memorable testimonial from one of your clients that left a significant impact on you?

We have so many that it is hard to choose just one. All of our client testimonials are here: testimonials.

I do have one in particular - becuase it hits home for me. Your readers should know that I am a Breast Cancer survivor - in March of 2021, I was diagnosed with HER2+ Stage 2a Breast Cancer. I did all the things - Chemo, Surgery, and Immunotherapy, and I finished treatment in November 2022 and am cancer-free.

Alara Imaging | Nate Mazonson, CEO, “I recently worked with E.B. Howard Consulting team on a proposal for an SBIR grant. They were knowledgeable, professional, patient, and a joy to work with. Properly crafting grants is challenging, and it is important to have experience in your corner to put forward a winning submission. I’m grateful to the E.B. Howard Consulting team for their work.”

After Nate wrote that testimonial, we learned that they won their NIH

SBIR Phase II grant in the amount of $1,973,174. We just finished a second project with Alara Imaging and are rooting for a win for them again. Alara Imaging, a cutting-edge healthcare technology company, has been at the forefront of this mission with its groundbreaking innovation, the Alara Imaging Gateway. This project seeks to bridge the gap between electronic health records and radiology imaging exams to report on national quality measures, ultimately aiming to reduce cancer risk from computed tomography (CT). You can see our full press release about Alara Imaging and their win here.

What sets E. B. Howard Consulting apart from other consulting firms in your field?

E.B. Howard Consulting isn’t the kind of firm that thrives on flashy promises. Instead, it builds its reputation on a foundation of honesty, collaboration, and a deep understanding of the complex world of grant funding.

At the heart of their approach is a refusal to guarantee results. They know that the funding landscape is competitive, and instead of overpromising, they choose transparency. This realistic outlook signals their integrity and helps clients set appropriate expectations.

True to their name as a consulting firm, they recognize that success hinges on partnership. While E.B. Howard Consulting brings unmatched expertise in navigating funding sources and crafting proposals; they understand that the client is the ultimate expert on their own business or project. This leads to a highly collaborative dynamic with clear role definitions for the best outcomes.

They also know that time is crucial. E.B. Howard Consulting prefers to be brought into a project at least 45 days before a deadline. This isn’t about creating pressure but rather ensuring they have ample time to do the job right. Rushed grant proposals rarely succeed, and the team at E.B. Howard Consulting prioritizes both quality and results.

Finally, they take confidentiality very seriously. Standard confidentiality practices are baked into their approach, and they’re always willing to sign NDAs. This fosters trust and reassures clients, allowing for the open sharing of information necessary to create a winning proposal.

E.B. Howard Consulting doesn’t hide behind vague claims of success. They openly share client testimonials and maintain a database documenting their successful track record. This transparency lets the results speak for themselves and sets them apart in a field where promises can sometimes feel a little too easy.

How do you stay updated on the latest trends and opportunities in grant funding and business development? Think of the world of non-dilutive funding and business development as a vast landscape – sometimes confusing but also full of hidden gems. To navigate it successfully, you can’t just sit at your computer. You need to connect with the people who shape this landscape.

Conferences and workshops specifically focused on your field are like treasure maps. You’ll rub shoulders with funders, learn from people who’ve successfully secured grants, and connect with experts offering the kind of insights you won’t find in a Google search.

“The heart-dropping moment my boss said “laid-off” changed everything.”

Don’t underestimate the power of joining professional associations (we are members of several). These are your allies, constantly tracking grant opportunities, sharing inside knowledge, and sometimes even having dedicated committees to help members find funding.

Universities are often overlooked as potential partners. Their development offices are goldmines. With an eye toward collaborative research and community impact, they’re always on the hunt for funding and might welcome a partnership on a compelling project.

Of course, sometimes the right information comes directly to you. Google Alerts are your personal scouts – set them up with the right keywords, and you’ll receive targeted notifications about new funding opportunities in your areas of interest.

Social media is your pulse on what’s happening right now. Follow the right funders, government agencies, and industry leaders, and you’ll get realtime updates that can put you ahead of the curve.

Finally, stay plugged into industry publications and blogs. These resources don’t just announce opportunities; they analyze trends. Understanding the bigger picture of funding and business development empowers you to make smarter, more strategic moves.

What advice would you give to startups or small businesses seeking grant funding for the first time?

Think of your first foray into non-dilutive grant funding as an adventure into new territory. It’s exciting, but success requires a strategic approach, not just

a leap of faith.

Firstly, get real about grants. This isn’t free money to spend as you please. Grants are investments, and funders want to see a clear plan, proof of your ability to execute it, and detailed reporting on how their money is used. If you’re not ready for that level of commitment, you might want to explore other funding avenues first.

Before you start searching, take a hard look at your business. Do you have a solid business plan? What specific problems are you solving? What kind of funding gap do you need to fill? Answering these questions will make finding the right grants infinitely easier.

Start your search on a local level. Many smaller, community-focused grants are less competitive and might be a perfect fit for your startup’s mission. Don’t be afraid to niche down – are there funding opportunities specifically for your industry or even for businesses led by people like you? The more targeted your search, the better your chances.

Attention to detail is everything when it comes to the application itself. Funders have specific guidelines for a reason— ignore them, and your proposal won’t even be considered. Beyond the technical stuff, remember that you’re telling your business’s story. Why does your work matter? What impact will it have? Who’s the team that will make it happen? Injecting passion makes you stand out.

Putting together a competitive proposal takes time, so don’t wait until the last minute. Always aim for clarity, even if that means sacrificing some jargon; reviewers don’t have time to decipher

an overly complex proposal. And before you hit “submit”, get an outside eye to review it. A fresh perspective can catch issues you might miss.

Finally, build relationships whenever possible. Contacting the funder with clarifying questions shows you’re serious. Don’t get discouraged by rejections; they’re normal in the grant world. Instead, learn from them and keep pushing forward!

BONUS Info from us: We love sharing our knowledge and expertise with you. Here are two readiness checklists that you might find helpful.

● Positioning Your Company for Grant Readiness: View Live Here or Download Here.

● SBIR/STTR Grant Readiness Checklist: View Live Here or Download Here.

How do you tailor your consulting approach to meet the unique needs and goals of each client?

At E.B. Howard Consulting, we understand that every client represents a unique set of goals, challenges, and, most importantly, people. That’s why we never deploy cookie-cutter solutions. Our consulting approach is built on three pillars that ensure a client-centric experience:

1. The Human Element: We believe that the foundation of any successful change lies in strong relationships. Getting to know our clients as people, not just businesses, is crucial. We recognize businesses are made up of individuals, and we approach challenges with empathy and sensitivity, acknowledging the emotional impact change can have.

“ E.B. Howard

Consulting believes that non-dilutive FUNDING is a key tool for de-risking investments, and we are dedicated to guiding our CLIENTS through the entire process, from identifying the most suitable

opportunities to submitting and MANAGING grant applications. ”

E.B. Howard, the visionary founder and CEO of E.B. Howard Consulting. E.B. Howard Consulting is a certified Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise dedicated to guiding clients in securing, applying for, and evaluating the impact of nondilutive grant funding.”

2. Customized Solutions: While we have proven methodologies, we know that flexibility is key. We never force-fit a generic solution onto a client’s situation. Instead, we adapt our frameworks and tools to suit their industry and where they are as a startup or small business. We believe in the power of narratives, but we always back our stories with data-driven insights, offering clear metrics and evidence of the potential return on investment.

3. Clarity and Collaboration: We strive to provide actionable recommendations that eliminate confusion and set clients on an achievable path. Our focus is on practical, implementable solutions that the client can both understand and own. We see the client as a co-creator of these solutions, inviting them into the process via workshops, iterative feedback, and brainstorming sessions. We are deeply committed to long-term client success, tailoring our approach to include training and knowledge transfer whenever possible. Our goal is to leave the client stronger and more capable long after our engagement concludes.

Could you walk us through a success story of a client who greatly benefited from your consulting services?

We have so many that it is hard to choose just one. All of our client testimonials are here: testimonials. All of our funded clients are listed here https://www.ebhoward. com/trackrecord/

I point back to Nate from Alara. In our second application round with him and his team, just last month, we really spent time working through all of their documents (narrative, budget, attachments, etc.) and providing really strong feedback and guidance.

What challenges do you often encounter when working with startups and small businesses, and how do you overcome them?

Here are a few of the most common challenges that we encounter and how we work to overcome them. Some of these challenges are asked or are a point of conversation with potential clients so often that we created a page on our website with our guidance to address these challenges our-guidance. Listed below are the most common challenges we address regularly.

1. Unrealistic Expectations: Many first-time grant seekers misjudge the competitive nature of the funding world, expecting quick results or guaranteed success. We manage this by emphasizing realistic success rates, stressing that grants are not a simple solution for financial difficulties, and clarifying that we cannot guarantee funding. We also provide resources and tools to help educate our clients like this Positioning Your Company for Grant Readiness: View Live Here or Download Here.

2. Understanding Payment Structures: There’s sometimes a misconception that we work on contingency or success fee models. First, we uphold the ethics of the Grant Professional Association (GPA), the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and the American Evaluation Association (AEA) - both have strong codes of conduct and ethical guidelines surrounding this. Second, regarding the legality of taking an incentive, contingency, or success fee for compensation from a grant could be viewed as a form of misappropriation of funds and could involve an adverse audit finding. We strongly recommend spending your grant dollars in alignment with what is allowable under the agency guidelines and in

alignment with what was proposed in the budget. Not doing so is a misappropriation of funds and is considered fraud. We strongly encourage our clients to follow the US federal government’s Uniform Guidance regulations §200.209. We strongly encourage our clients to follow the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

3.Time Constraints: Startups and small businesses, faced with numerous priorities, often rush grant proposals at the last minute. We mitigate this problem by insisting on a 45-day minimum engagement period, ensuring time for quality work. Ultimately we will not take on proposal preparation for a grant less than 30 days from the deadline. No exceptions. We have created this handy calculator to help clients see what their timeline with us at the table would look like.

Overall, our approach prioritizes clear communication, realistic goal-setting, and fostering a collaborative partnership to maximize the chances of securing funding for our clients.

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for the future of E. B. Howard Consulting?

E.B. Howard Consulting envisions a future where they are not only experts in their field but also leaders and innovators. To achieve this, they wanted to invest in expanding their knowledge and constantly exploring new methodologies, best practices, and funding trends. This thirst for knowledge would ensure they provided cutting-edge guidance to their clients.

E.B. Howard Consulting envisions itself as becoming a thought leader within the non-dilutive grant industry through conference talks, podcasts, webinars, etc.

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filled a box truck of donations for the food pantries and helped establish the Golden Flamingo Award.

The Golden Flamingo is a yearly award presented to five Wayne Central School District Staff members each year recognizing their dedication and hard work in the district. One of my proudest achievements is instituting the annual donation of Butterfly kits for the Wayne Primary Kindergarten class in perpetuity. Also, the Wayne Central Education

Foundation provides “Heart of Blue and Gold Scholarships” to graduates of Wayne Central High School. One of our favorite activities is being a part of the yearly Homecoming Parade. Pure happiness and fun being on a float and part of the school community. I dedicate a great deal of time to the Foundation. I say it is the best Non-paying job I have ever had.

Education Foundation, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and how have you overcome them?

Fundraising is becoming far more difficult, especially since COVID-19 and the hardships of the economy. People are incredibly careful with how they spend their disposable income. The Foundation receives no grants or assistance from the school district or the government. Through fundraising activities and events, it helps us support the community. We have raised money through assorted fundraising activities from food truck rodeos, to banquets, sponsorships, trivia nights, and the like. Another challenge is volunteerism and motivation. Time is an asset and not everyone is in the position to give up much of their time or talents. We have no paid positions on the Foundation and rely on our community to donate their valuable time to our organization. We collaborate with the school to have student volunteers for certain events. That is in exchange for the students earning community service hours. The best way to motivate the community to assist us is to host fun and enjoyable events. Also, they can see how their involvement and hard work pay off in supporting the students and district.

How do you envision the future of the Wayne Central Education Foundation, and what initiatives are you most excited about?

I envision our future to continue the same path sustaining the grants and scholarship programs. We hope to find other resources and ways for outreach to help identify other needs within the district and community. Working together with local Civic Groups, PTOs,



“Finding the balance between the Foundation and Doze Guyz, along with other commitments I have has been a learning experience.”

and additional organizations to broaden our impact. There is still a great deal of work to be done and we are excited to see what lies ahead for the Foundation.

Switching gears, how did you transition into your role as the event planner/ coordinator at Doze Guyz Entertainment? Doze Guyz Entertainment actually started to fill a need. The Foundation was hosting a food truck rodeo and we wanted to have a DJ at the event. We hoped to find one that would donate their time. Given my oldest son’s degree in Audio Sound Design, he stepped up and took on the task of DJ for three of the events we held.

Being from Long Island, we joke about having a down-state accent. At the events, when asked who the DJ was, the response was Those Guys—which sounded more like Doze Guyz. At first, we joked about my sons starting a real DJ business. From there it grew into a full-blown family business.

We do all sorts of events from school dances to weddings. Since Doze Guyz Entertainment LLC was founded, we have added a photo booth, and I became an Ordained Minister. The photo booth is a great deal of fun and people love having memories to keep. Becoming a Minister, enables us to perform wedding ceremonies.

Dan is the owner of the business, and my other son Thomas is his partner. Given they have other daily commitments I took on the role of CFO and event planner for them. I oversee the financials, handle contracts, pay bills, and run the day-to-day activities of the business.

What do you enjoy most about event planning, and what sets Doze Guyz Entertainment apart in the industry? Being a part of Doze Guyz is tremendous fun. I love going to events, meeting new people, enjoying the music, and the wonderful time everyone has. Never in my life did I think I would be almost sixty and be part of the hype team for a DJ at an event. I take immense pride in seeing my sons’ success and their happiness. Spending this special time with my family is a great trade-off for all the arduous work that goes into the business.

Can you share any memorable or unique experiences you’ve had while coordinating events for Doze Guyz Entertainment?

One of my favorite experiences being a part of Doze Guyz Entertainment is playing Mrs. Claus at Christmas. I attend town tree-lighting events, visit schools read to the students, and take part in breakfasts with Santa. The wonderment and belief in the children’s faces are more than anyone could ask for. I have been told that when I dress as Mrs. Claus even adults start to believe that I am the real thing and I embody the magic of Mrs. Claus.

I look forward to each and every event as they all will be different. We get to share in the happiness of a couple on their wedding day, celebrate milestones and birthdays, and be part of the blissful memories of people’s special days. There is the added bonus of being able to create special memories, dancing, and loving the amazing time with my family.

How do you balance your responsibilities between your role at the Wayne Central

Education Foundation and your work at Doze Guyz Entertainment?

Finding the balance between the Foundation and Doze Guyz, along with other commitments I have has been a learning experience. I must remind myself that I cannot do it all, I must ask for help and there is always tomorrow. I take on each task and set schedules and my best tool is making lists. I have lists for my lists but that enables me to keep everything sorted and organized. There are times when it can become overwhelming. When that happens, I have learned to take time for myself, not become consumed with it all.

Tell us a bit about your family and how they have influenced your career and passions.

I have been married to my husband Steven since 1989. We met late one night in a bar. His friend had asked me to dance, and I said no. My friends insisted that I go dance; instead, his friend Steven came out on the floor. I knew on our first date that Steven was the man I was going to marry. The rest was history. Steven works for National General Insurance in their automotive claims department. Steven is on the Wayne Central Education Foundation Board of Directors as well. We are both members of our local Walworth Lions and Ontario Rotary Clubs. We are active within our town government and community.

We have two sons, Daniel who is twentyfive. He graduated from Fredonia with a degree in Audio Sound Design. Dan is working as a substitute teacher for Wayne and loves being in the classroom. He is a terrific influence and supporter of the students. In the fall he will be




“I envision our future to continue the same path sustaining the grants and scholarship programs.”

returning to college to obtain his master’s in music education. Our other son Thomas is nineteen and is currently attending Finger Lakes Community College studying video game design. Thomas at this time has three video games that are close to being released for sale. Both of our sons are graduates of the Wayne Central School District. They are amazing young men, and we could not be prouder. They are supportive of the town they live in, and the residents and are well respected. We have instilled strong values and commitment within our children. You will usually find us all working together when volunteering or involved in Community Service. We have all been involved in scouts, bands, school musicals, and school groups. Our sons are continually active with the Wayne Central Education Foundation and Dan is a member of the Walworth Lions Club.

Have there been any specific individuals who have served as mentors or inspirations throughout your journey in education and event planning?

town’s school board. From her I learned the value of community, collaborating with my neighbors, and making the world a better place.

Along with my mother, there have been numerous mentors and people who inspired me. My husband, my children, dear friends, and others. What I learned along this journey of life is to try and learn something from each person you encounter.

Primarily, my inspiration is my mother. She was widowed at the age of thirty-two with three young girls under the age of ten. When others could have given up, my mother found the courage and strength to forge forward. She raised me and my sisters with the help of friends and family. We were a true example of how it takes a village to raise children. My mother was a volunteer in the schools, and scouts and even was a softball coach; although she knew nothing about the game. She served her community for over 38 years on the

What advice would you give to aspiring educators or individuals interested in pursuing a career in event planning?

Love and take pride in what you do. Remember each day to try and inspire another and learn from those you meet. With the Foundation I give Challenge Coins to people who I feel have had an impact on our community. On the coin are written the words “Always Inspire”. I believe in that approach. The smallest act

can have the largest impact on another person. Set realistic goals and do not be afraid to ask for help. Know your hard work and effort will make some other’s life special. It can be hard but that makes the journey much more valuable.

How do you stay motivated and inspired in your roles, especially when faced with challenges or setbacks?

The best motivator has been seeing the positive outcomes from my hard work. Being able to fund teacher grants, help students with scholarships, and leave an impact on our world. I have been fortunate to be recognized for my dedication by my community. In 2022 I was nominated for the Senator Helming Woman of Distinction Award. Also, I received the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year. In 2023 the Wayne Central Education Foundation received an Award of Excellence from the Wayne Mason’s Club and was the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Community Service Organization of the year. I love the sense of satisfaction that comes with working hard and achieving great accomplishments. It is just as nice to be recognized by others for commitment.

What are some of the values or principles that guide you in both your professional and personal life?

As a woman, I passionately believe that we have a special task in life. That is to support the other women in our lives. Unfortunately, many women are intimidated by another strong woman. We should flip the script and look at it in a different way. We are here to push along, lift, and cheer on each other. We are all queens and should wear our crowns firmly on our heads. We must lend a


“Being a part of Doze Guyz is tremendous fun. I love going to events, meeting new people, enjoying the music, and the wonderful time everyone has.”

hand when another queen’s crown needs to be straightened and they need our strength to continue with their duties. A truly inspirational quote comes from Helen Keller “Alone we can do so little, together we can do much”. Powerful words to live by.

In what ways do you believe education and entertainment intersect, and how do you navigate that intersection in your various roles?

My oldest son Dan is extremely talented at music. He performed in school musicals, and played the tuba in high school and college bands. In middle school, high school, and college he sang with the chorus. He is now pursuing a career

as a music teacher. Education is the foundation on which other talents can flourish. He is a pure example of how music and education intersect.

By experiencing these opportunities alongside Dan I have learned how important the two worlds are and how they can easily be navigated to work together. Music and education open unlimited chances and experiences.

Looking ahead, what are some of your goals and aspirations, both personally and professionally?

There is still much out there I want to experience. I am not ready to stop living life or being a spectator in everyone

else’s world. I am loving every minute of where my life is going. It can only get better from here. I am eager to watch my children grow their business. To be proud to see how far they will succeed in everything they take on in life. Personally, my husband and I are getting involved in town government and community organizations. We love the town we live in and want to do our due diligence to see our town and community thrive.

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In the vibrant cityscape of Rochester, New York, amidst the rhythmic pulse of urban life, a journey unfolds—a journey marked by resilience, redemption, and unwavering determination. Born on a balmy July 28th, 1989, our protagonist’s story traverses the varied landscapes of Rochester, Birmingham, Alabama, and Elkhart, Indiana, each locale imbued with its own tapestry of challenges and triumphs.

From the outset, life unfolded like a tumultuous roller coaster ride, replete with dizzying highs and gut-wrenching lows. Growing up amidst the complex dynamics of familial relationships, she yearned for love and acceptance, yet found herself navigating a maze of expectations and disappointments. Driven by an unyielding spirit, she pursued her dreams fervently, despite the pervasive sense of disconnection and longing.

she embarked on a journey of selfdiscovery, determined to carve her own destiny.

Yet, amidst the backdrop of personal turmoil, she found solace in the written word—a refuge amidst the storm. Channeling her pain and anguish into

As adolescence beckoned, she found herself teetering on the precipice of academic success and familial discord. The transition from high honor student to disillusioned dropout marked a pivotal juncture in her journey—a divergence from the conventional path, yet a testament to her resilience in the face of adversity. Undeterred by societal expectations,

poetry and prose, she embarked on a cathartic journey of self-expression, laying bare the complexities of her lived experiences. It was amidst this creative crucible that the seeds of her literary aspirations were sown—a testament to the transformative power of storytelling.

However, her path to self-realization

was fraught with obstacles, chief among them the specter of abusive relationships and incarceration. Trapped in a cycle of domestic violence, she grappled with the harrowing realities of physical and emotional abuse, each blow a reminder of her own vulnerability. Yet, even in the darkest of moments, she clung to a glimmer of hope—a beacon of light amidst the shadows of despair.

The turning point came with a tragic accident—a stark reminder of life’s fragility and unpredictability. As two young lives hung in the balance, she found herself grappling with the weight of remorse and regret. It was a watershed moment—a catalyst for selfreflection and introspection, as she confronted the demons of her past and embraced the promise of redemption.

Incarceration became both a crucible of transformation and a crucifixion of the spirit—a trial by fire that tested her resolve and resilience. Stripped of her freedom and dignity, she found herself navigating the labyrinthine corridors of the justice system, each day a battle for survival. Yet, amidst the confines of confinement, she discovered an unexpected gift—the gift of self-discovery.

It was within the confines of her prison cell that she embarked on a journey of self-reckoning, confronting the


“It was a watershed moment—a catalyst for self-reflection and introspection, as she confronted the demons of her past and embraced the promise of redemption.”


demons of her past and embracing the promise of a brighter future. Through tears and prayers, she forged a path towards redemption, reclaiming her agency and dignity amidst the shadows of despair. It was a journey fraught with setbacks and challenges, yet imbued with a sense of purpose and determination.

Emerging from the crucible of adversity, she embarked on a journey of reintegration—a journey marked by resilience, redemption, and unwavering determination. Guided by a steadfast resolve to rebuild her life, she sought solace in the embrace of compassionate souls who saw beyond her past transgressions, embracing her with open arms and unwavering support.

Among these guiding lights stood Alyssa Whitfield—a beacon of inspiration and compassion, whose unwavering belief in her potential catalyzed a ripple effect of empowerment and transformation. Through Dress for Success, she found a platform to transcend the shackles of her past, emerging as an ambassador of hope and resilience.

for her encouraging words,and never gave up on her whatever opportunity she knew of she introduced herto it. Sandy Arena, she syas is a great person inside out. She gave her part of her dream as a child...the opportunity to model and do pageants.

“Kelly gives me even more hope about my future,” says Letoya.

Dorothy Chung she says befriedned her and inspired her more then she can ever thank her for. Plus, I cant not say thank you to Jermoni and the team from CEO were a great inspiration for giving her a second chance and always had a listening ear, along with Kareen who was her shoulder to cry and is family. And last, but not least, Lashan, Levar and my coworkers, they all gave her a second chance with stable employment seeing things in her that she couldn’t see in herself.

Since her release she has done a lot of networking in Monroe County, and has met a lot of great people. She has had some awesome opportunities like becoming an ambassador for Dress for Success. Also, she thanks Maryann

Kelly Breuer she credits for taking her under her wings as a great friend and mentor who she is grateful for believing in her and giving her the chance to tell her story and attend every event since she’s known her.

Yet, amidst the accolades and achievements, she grappled with the elusive pursuit of balance, striving to reconcile past failures with future aspirations. Through the lens of self-reflection, she endeavored to shed the cloak of guilt and shame, embracing her journey with gratitude and authenticity.

As she charts a course towards a brighter tomorrow, her vision extends beyond personal triumphs, encompassing a commitment to social justice and reform. Drawing from her firsthand experiences, she advocates for the reformation of the justice system, offering a voice to the voiceless and a beacon of hope to the marginalized.

“ As she charts a course towards a BRIGHTER tomorrow, her vision extends beyond personal TRIUMPHS, encompassing a commitment to social justice and REFORM. ”

“With each step forward, she continues to inspire and uplift, leaving an indelible imprint on the hearts of those she encounters.”

Navigating through setbacks and obstacles, she remains steadfast in her resolve, propelled by the indomitable spirit of resilience and determination.

With each step forward, she continues to inspire and uplift, leaving an indelible imprint on the hearts of those she encounters.

In the tapestry of life, her story serves as a testament to the power of resilience, reminding us that amidst the darkest of storms, lies the promise of renewal and redemption. As she continues to traverse the labyrinth of existence, her journey stands as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path towards a future defined by courage, compassion, and unwavering perseverance.

Make sure to check out her book by emailing her at letoya5789@

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Shelby Lupisella’s journey through a highrisk pregnancy, premature delivery, and caring for her medically complex daughter Elsie highlights the urgent need for expanded prenatal and postnatal support services. Shelby’s experience resonates deeply with the challenges faced by many mothers, especially Black and Brown women who confront disproportionately higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. Compounded by the loss of Shelby’s job, her family’s story underscores the profound challenges many families face during a high-risk pregnancy and the delivery of a complex and fragile child. Through Shelby’s narrative, light is shed on why minutes matter and here at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Rochester, we are helping moms experiencing high-risk pregnancies remain close to care by providing free lodging and nutritious meals at our Westmoreland House until they deliver, and then throughout the hospitalization of their child—hospitalization is common for infants born of high-risk pregnancies. The length of stay ranges from several weeks to several months and our goal is to provide a home-away-from-home close to essential medical care for these moms and their families. Since 2019 and the inception of RMHCR’s innovative intervention supporting high-risk Moms at our Westmoreland House, we have provided a total of 822 nights of free lodging next door to the hospital and over 71 stays including through the pandemic. Shelby’s powerful story is shared through a loving mother’s own words, and we thank her for her courage and permission to share her journey.

Shelby’s Story:

My name is Shelby Lupisella, I’m a 26-year-old living in Rochester NY.

When I was 20 weeks pregnant, I went in for a routine anatomy scan to look at my growing baby girl. Mine and my husband’s hearts skipped with joy as the ultrasound tech handed us the black and white strip of cute sonogram pictures, outlining my baby’s profile, tiny hands, and tiny feet. She asked us to wait for a doctor to come in to talk to us and we were none the wiser and beamed as a Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor entered our room. Our lives halted in that moment. She sat down and grabbed my hand and told me that

my sweet baby wasn’t growing, and that something was very wrong. Before I had time to think, a needle was pushed into my belly to grab a sample for genetic testing, and we were given time at home to think about our options. There were 2; medically necessary termination or trying to stay pregnant as long as possible and give birth to a very small, incredibly sick baby. We teetered back and forth and spent the next couple weeks going to scan after scan. My husband and I

decided we wanted to try for our little girl and couldn’t handle the “what-if’s” of terminating. My baby girl’s chances were small, but not small enough for us. Three weeks after our anatomy scan, my body started to fail. The decision was made to keep me inpatient for the remainder of my pregnancy until I delivered. Our goal was 28 weeks’ gestation, and it was nearly impossible. I was moved from unit to unit depending on my condition, some days being on a unit with new moms who’d just delivered. I could hear them cooing at their perfect, healthy newborns. My heart was broken. My husband spent most nights sleeping in the recliner in my room. When I started to get sick enough, I was strapped to a monitor and bed for 23 hours a day, with an hour of free time to do as I pleased (but never leave the hospital). I was told that the risk of stillbirth was so high that if I got up to shower and came back and she was gone, nothing could be done. I made it to 25 weeks and 2 days gestation, when my sweet girl became very sick and we found out her heart was failing. It was time to deliver. I was rushed to an urgent c- section and cut up and down instead of side to side due to the baby’s size, and her needing to be lifted straight out to keep her bones from breaking. Elsie James Lupisella was born at 11am on 5/10/23, weighing less than a pound. My 15.2oz wonder baby was intubated with the smallest tube manufactured and whisked to the Golisano NICU. Battered and bruised, I was able to see her the next day. Most words to describe her are an understatement; she could fit in the palm of your hand. I was discharged from Strong at two days postpartum, went to the NICU and said our goodbyes, and cried on the

“Shelby’s experience resonates deeply with the challenges faced by many mothers, especially Black and Brown women who confront disproportionately higher rates of maternal and infant mortality.”

way home, devastated that my baby wasn’t coming home with me.

We were home for an hour before we were called to come back because her condition had worsened rapidly, and we needed to be with her. We were fortunate enough to be able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House Within the Hospital, where we were just steps away from Elsie at all times. I was provided a breast pump in my room and meals, and healed the best I could at 3 days postpartum with 107 stitches in my tummy. We stayed at House Within for a total of 7 weeks. I will forever cherish this time, as most mothers of micro-preemies have to leave their baby’s bedside and go home. By some miracle, she survived all of this. The surgeries, blood transfusions, brain bleed scares, blood pressure issues, and endless others. She’s lucky; we all are. Her chance of survival (pending surviving delivery) at her size was 30%. Elsie stayed at Golisano for 4 and a half months. She

came home on oxygen and a g-tube for feeding. This hadn’t come without its ups and downs, as Elsie was admitted to the PICU after being home for 5 weeks because she had a cold which took a toll on her lungs. She was on life support for 8 days, and we again stayed at House Within the Hospital for her entire 21 day admission. There is a constant fear of her catching something that has consumed our lives. We practically don’t leave the house, and most family members haven’t met Elsie due to the risk of exposure, which could lead to infection. Elsie has 8 specialists on her team, so the appointments can be overwhelming. Getting her ready to leave the house is a long process and requires extensive planning and packing. It’s usually a 2 person job. Over time we’ve been lucky to be able to convert some appointments to virtual, but this isn’t the case for most families. A mobile unit bringing medical care and supportive services would be a lifesaver for our family, and many others that I’ve met along the way.

What happened to us is rare, but not rare enough. The training and resources given after leaving simply don’t meet the need. We were given instructions the day of discharge on how to manage her oxygen tanks and feeding pump, with supplemental knowledge given to us from Elsie’s nurses. We would benefit from a flexible telehealth model, providing guidance and support as we navigate the rollercoaster of caring for a child with complex medical needs. I’ve jumped into the role of medical caregiver and mother, and lost my job in the process. Although in hindsight I’m glad to be home with her full time, the feeling when I lost my job due to needing inpatient care was gut wrenching. My husband Joe says I loved her back to life. I credit this partially to the endless hours I spent at her bedside, which I was able to do thanks to Ronald McDonald House.

Thank you for reading my story. Shelby



Can you introduce yourself and share the mission behind your business, Ayurveda?

My name is Dana Emmings. I am a registered Ayurveda practitioner under the National Ayurveda Medical Association, and a mother to three girls and 2 boys! The name of my practice is Sacred Life Ayurveda and Panchakarma Centre and is seated in the hills of Highland Park, Rochester, NY. The mission behind my Ayurveda business is to educate others on a new, but ancient way to understand the body. I address imbalances before they fully manifest into disease thus allowing individuals to live a life free from illness and age with grace naturally, which is how my tagline came to be - Free to Live.

What inspired you to venture into entrepreneurship, particularly in the realm of Ayurveda?

After graduating from college with a degree in Finance and Management, I realized I was passionate about helping others heal, so I quickly went back to school to finish my pre-medical studies, became a medic on an ambulance and began working in the emergency department. I soon realized that I was picking up the same people on the ambulance and seeing the same faces return to the emergency department. It didn’t take me long to realize people were not truly healing. I believe deeply in the spiritual nature of who we are; that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. The medical model I was pursuing did not recognize this, and in the end, I believed there was something out there that aligned

more deeply with my vision of how to attain health. I searched for quite a few years until my path became clear. My daughter, Abby, 4 years old at the time helped bring me to Ayurveda.

Abby had a deep intense cough that lingered for well over a month. Each night, she would wake and I would bring her to the window to breathe in the cool night air. The prescription cough medicines the doctor recommended hadn’t touched it, and she continued to suffer. Someone mentioned I bring

was enrolled in the Ayurveda program at Kripalu in the Berkshires, where I studied under the most prominent names in Ayurveda today – Drs Vasant Lad, Claudia Welch and Willam Svoboda as well as countless others that came from every region of India. Ayurveda is practiced differently in the north, south, east and west of India so this was a particularly rich education for me that I still draw from today.

her to see a local ayurveda practitioner, who quickly became my first ayurveda teacher. His name was Sonam Targee. He prescribed a formula, sitopaladi churna and recommended I mix it with honey and give it to her every hour until symptoms passed. Sitopaladi is an ancient formula made of things like cardamom, cinnamon, bamboo and pippali, a type of long pepper. I will tell you, with still amazement and disbelief, that Abby’s cough was completely gone within 12 hours. I soon began studying with Sonam and a few short years later

Becoming an entrepreneur was just an automatic next move for me. I knew that if I wanted to practice Ayurveda, there was only one avenue, and that was to open my own business. Looking back nearly 15 years ago now, I really had no idea where to begin. Once I opened my office, no one really came! I quickly discovered no one really knew what Ayurveda even was. I began to hold workshops to educate the community. Sometimes I would get a room full and sometimes I would only get 1 or 2 people but I vowed to never cancel due to lack of attendance. I was so passionate about Ayurveda and its deep, ancient wisdom it, that I simply loved to talk about it and share with anyone who would listen! As time went on, I watched it change lives, including my own. I raised my children on Ayurveda and still to this day, I brag they have never needed antibiotics. This is the power of Ayurveda.

Could you walk us through the range of products and services Ayurveda offers to its clients?

Ayurveda offers a wide range of

“Becoming an entrepreneur was just an automatic next move for me. I knew that if I wanted to practice Ayurveda, there was only one avenue, and that was to open my own business.”

products and services, including herbal supplements, oils, powders, and holistic treatments such as massage therapy, yoga, meditation, and dietary recommendations tailored to individual constitutions. Additionally, Ayurvedic practices encompass detoxification therapies, rejuvenation treatments, and lifestyle guidance for overall well-being.

How does Ayurveda incorporate holistic living principles into its offerings, and what led you to pursue this approach? Ayurveda emphasizes holistic living by considering the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and spirit. Its offerings promote balance and harmony in all aspects of life, including diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, and emotional well-being. Ayurvedic principles guide individuals to align with their natural constitution (dosha) and make choices that support optimal health and vitality. This holistic approach extends to treatments, which aim to address the root cause of imbalances rather than just treating the symptoms. Ayurveda also encourages mindfulness, self-awareness, and a deep connection with nature to foster overall wellness. This approach resonates with me and as I utilized the principles of Ayurveda in my own life, I quickly saw changes in myself and family.

Balancing entrepreneurship with family life can be challenging. How do you manage this aspect of your life? I have integrated Ayurveda into my family. Do they always appreciate it? Possibly no. However, it truly has become a way of life. Do I bring work home? Absolutely! Some nights, when the family was younger, I would do all the mom things – homework, dinner, extracurriculars, story time and lights

out. I then would dive deep into the ancient texts and explore a disease or imbalance a client was struggling with or put together some herbal formulas that hadn’t reached the marketplace yet. I homeschooled my kids for 8 years, so they lived Ayurveda alongside me.

I find balance with work and owning a business by making time for myself. My day begins at 5am, and it is during this time, that I set the stage for my day. I have a morning dinacharya (routine), that I follow faithfully, and it provides a stillness for me that I can tap into throughout the day. Dinacharya is a very important piece of Ayurveda can restore imbalances just through some simple steps each day. Many people ask what mine is, so I’ll share. Pranayama (breath practice), yoga, meditation, garshana (dry brushing), tongue scraping, tea, shower and abhyangha (oil massage), nasya oil (nose oil!). Once I’ve completed this, it’s time to begin my day, which could look like making lunches, getting ready to go into the office, going for a walk and getting my 8-year-old off to school.

Can you share some strategies or tips you’ve found helpful in maintaining work-life balance?

My dinacharya (daily routine) that I mentioned above is vital to the success of the accomplishments of my day. To me, there is nothing more enriching and restorative to the soul. The morning hours are a precious and sacred time. Each day is a new beginning, a new breath, a new prayer. We must anchor this each morning and make it a priority, for not just ourselves but for our families, communities and the greater good. If you develop a daily routine that fits for you and feels good to you, this will

set your day right. Of course, there are setbacks, etc. that occur for all of us, but when you take the time to tune into Self and spirit during this vulnerable time of dawn, this will be so helpful in providing an extra tank of gas, so to speak, when the waters of the day get turbulent, and they often do. The morning routine allows us to be the calm amid the storm.

What are some common misconceptions of Ayurveda and how do you address them?

Some common misconceptions about Ayurveda include:

1. Ayurveda is solely focused on herbal remedies: While herbs play a significant role, Ayurveda encompasses a wide range of practices including diet, lifestyle adjustments, yoga, meditation, and therapies like massage and detoxification, like panchakarma.

2. Ayurveda is only for physical health: Ayurveda addresses holistic health, including mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It considers the interconnectedness of aspects of life.

3. Ayurveda is a quick fix: Ayurvedic treatments often take time and require consistent effort. It’s about cultivating balance and preventing imbalances rather than providing instant solutions.

4. Ayurveda is incompatible with modern medicine. Ayurveda can complement conventional medicine when integrated wisely.

5. Ayurveda is one-size-fits-all approach: Ayurveda emphasizes individualized care based on one’s unique constitution (dosha), imbalances, and environmental



“I believe deeply in the spiritual nature of who we are; that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.”

factors. What works for one person may not work for another.

How do you stay updated on the latest developments and research in the field of Ayurveda?

NAMA, the National Ayurvedic Association is a critical component in helping me and others stay abreast to the latest developments and research in Ayurveda. NAMA has various committees that support the key work efforts of the association, including Membership, Standards, Communications, Ethics, Elections and Conference Planning Committees. Other committees and work groups are established as needed for the effective work of the organization.

One of NAMA’s primary goals is to support Ayurvedic education and the resulting professional practices. The Standards Committee has been very active in surveying Ayurvedic education and setting standards for professional members. With more than 30 Ayurvedic schools offering programs throughout the country, NAMA strives to support the profession of Ayurveda and works to increase visibility and opportunity for Ayurvedic professionals. Since 2003, NAMA has offered successful Ayurvedic conferences in various cities throughout U.S. These national conferences offer increased depth of knowledge for developing Ayurvedic professionals. I attend these conferences yearly as well as maintain a status on the continuing education that is offered weekly, allowing me the time and space to converse with other practitioners across the country. The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrated Medical Studies offers case studies on a regular basis, and this has been of exceptional use to me in my clinical

practice in staying current with the latest studies.

What role does community play in your business, and how do you engage with your clients and supporters?

The Rochester community is extraordinary with their openness to holistic healthcare. I typically come across individuals that have an interest in Ayurveda and want to learn more. When I first opened my doors, Ayurveda hadn’t really hit the community too hard, but as the years have passed, there is new openness and a new intrigue that’s come across Rochester that I find inspiring. I like to engage with clients and supporters through Instagram and from there, my posts will attach to Facebook. This allows me to have one social media stream but post through both. This works for me! I tend to get lost on Facebook and before I know it, I’ve wasted away more than an hour. If you want to connect with me, Instagram is certainly the best way, or just call! @DanaEmmings or (585)773.0860. I love receiving new inquiries on my voice message. My website is currently under construction but there is a contact page and if you leave your name and email, I will reach out.

Could you share a memorable success story or moment from your journey with Ayurveda?

There are many success stories since opening the doors of Sacred Life Ayurveda from holding a baby of a couple that came to me for fertility issues, to reversing the effects of glaucoma and diabetes to helping a teen reduce anxiety to audition for their school play. There are so many. My most memorable is, of course, with my daughter, Abby and the cough she had

that just wouldn’t go away. I look back on that most fondly because it inspired me to get my Ayurveda education and open the doors to the community. Another important one for me is watching my clients grow old naturally and diseasefree. Ayurveda believes the body can live 100 years free from disease. It is the medicine of longevity and was created to allow individuals to attain enlightenment during their time on Earth. Enlightenment can take a very long time. It doesn’t have to, but it often does. With the longevity medicine of Ayurveda, we have an easier time attaining enlightenment because the senses have been cleaned and cleared allowing for clearer perception of the world around us. I enjoy watching my clients, and myself grow old gracefully. This is the natural progression of life that Ayurveda helps us accept and understand.

How do you envision the future of Ayurveda, both within your business and on a larger scale?

For me, I will adhere to the principles of Ayurveda because they have been tried and true and have passed the test of time. Some things may need to evolve to fit the busi-ness of the world and the time constraints people put on themselves, but for the most part, I find folks are wanting a slower pace when they come to see me. I often remind people that it took them awhile to get out of balance so it may take some time to restore it, but it will be time well-spent! This slowing down process of healing the body provides lasting results, which is ultimately what we want. When healing is rushed, it is often putting a band-aid on one problem to fix another. I think it’s important to get to the root cause and heal from there.



“The mission behind my Ayurveda business is to educate others on a new, but ancient way to understand the body.”

On a larger scale, I have seen some Ayurveda therapies get lost on individuals, meaning, they are done in a facility that may rush the process or downplay the healing effects and this can be damaging to the field, perhaps. Time will tell. Ayurveda has lived through the evolution of medical modalities across the globe and even after 5,000 years, it continues to heal and change people’s lives. Ayurveda is a life-long practice, and as an ambassador, I will always tend its fires, I imagine!

Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives you’re excited about within Ayurveda? Yes! I have some visions of opening an Ayurveda panchakarma retreat center where people can spend the night and receive care throughout their stay. Also, I would like to create a program to educate teachers on the different body types so they can adjust their teachings to better fit the students. For example, schools were designed for the pitta body type individual; the child who could sit in a chair all day, and keep their mind engaged and active naturally. The children with ADHD often have a vata body type. The children labelled ‘slow to learn’ are our kapha children. These children are slow to learn and slow to forget. I believe understanding the body types of these children will help educators more effectively reach them. Another project I’ve been working on for the past year, is an Ayurveda dating app. This again, is based on the knowledge

of the different body types and joining individuals together that have opposing body types. This may sound odd, but it can bring balance to a relationship. Those are my current ambitions…

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly women, who are interested in entering the holistic health industry?

Do it! There has never been a greater time to practice holistic healthcare, in my opinion. People are hungry for something natural when it comes to

most important qualities or skills for a successful entrepreneur in this field? Reading and interpreting the ancient texts and becoming skilled at pulse reading are very important in this field. Listening is key to this practice. Oftentimes, patients just want to be seen and heard, so this is very important as well. If you don’t know something, it’s okay to tell your patient you don’t know, but you’ll find out. This means a lot to people. Research, even after 15 years is still a big part of my work. Patience. You will be a forever student, but there’s great joy in the endless discovery.

prevention and reversing disease, and I think a lot of the stigma of holistic healthcare has dissipated. Many women are natural, instinctual healers and the time has come to trust and honor that. Never worry about competition because you are a unique soul and the gifts and talents you bring to the industry will be as equally as unique. Create your dinacharya and trust yourself.

In your opinion, what are some of the

When you have downtime, how do you unwind and relax?

I love hanging with my family and creating. Whether it’s a new recipe or art, I love doing it with my people. I also thoroughly enjoy a good Netflix binge in my bed with a rich glass of wine!




“In the high-stakes world of entrepreneurship, there’s often an unspoken pressure to maintain a facade of invincibility – to present a polished image of success and confidence at all times.”

In the high-stakes world of entrepreneurship, there’s often an unspoken pressure to maintain a facade of invincibility – to present a polished image of success and confidence at all times. However, beneath the surface of ambition and drive lies a rich tapestry of human emotions – joy, fear, doubt, and everything in between. In this article, we’ll delve into the interconnected realms of manifesting, entrepreneurship, and the imperative of embracing our humanity – feeling our feelings without shame – as a catalyst for authentic success.

The Myth of the Invincible Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurial success is often romanticized as the triumph of the fearless visionary – the gogetter who navigates challenges with unwavering confidence and determination. However, this myth of invincibility fails to acknowledge the human experience that lies at the heart of entrepreneurship. Behind every success story are moments of vulnerability, uncertainty, and self-doubt – the very essence of our humanity.

Manifesting Authenticity: Honoring Your Truth

At its core, manifesting is about aligning your actions with your deepest truths and desires. In entrepreneurship, this authenticity is

the bedrock of genuine connection and sustainable success. Embracing our humanity means honoring our truth – acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses, our triumphs and failures, and allowing ourselves to show up authentically in our business endeavors.

Feeling Your Feelings: The Power of Emotional Intelligence

In a culture that often prizes productivity over emotional wellbeing, it’s easy to overlook the importance of feeling our feelings. However, emotional intelligence is a crucial asset in entrepreneurship –enabling us to navigate challenges, communicate effectively, and build strong relationships. By allowing ourselves to feel our emotions without judgment or shame, we cultivate a deeper understanding of ourselves and others, fostering resilience and empathy in the process.

Releasing Shame: Embracing Imperfection

Shame thrives in the shadows of silence and self-criticism –whispering stories of inadequacy and unworthiness in our ears. In entrepreneurship, where failure is often seen as taboo, shame can be a paralyzing force – preventing us from taking risks, embracing vulnerability, and pursuing our dreams wholeheartedly. However, by shining a light on our shame,

acknowledging its presence, and releasing it with compassion and self-acceptance, we create space for growth, innovation, and authentic connection in our entrepreneurial journey.

Building Authentic Relationships: Vulnerability as a Strength

Authentic relationships are built on a foundation of vulnerability – the willingness to show up as our true selves, flaws and all. In entrepreneurship, this vulnerability is a strength – fostering trust, empathy, and collaboration among team members, clients, and collaborators. By embracing our humanity – feeling our feelings, releasing shame, and honoring our truth – we create a fertile ground for genuine connection and mutual support in our business endeavors.

Cultivating Self-Compassion: Nurturing Your Inner Entrepreneur

As entrepreneurs, we often set high expectations for ourselves – striving for perfection, pushing ourselves to the limit, and self-criticizing when we fall short. However, cultivating self-compassion is essential for our well-being and success in entrepreneurship. By treating ourselves with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness –especially in moments of challenge or failure – we foster resilience, creativity, and a sense of inner peace that sustains us through the highs



“However, embracing our humanity – feeling our feelings, releasing shame, and honoring our truth – is not only essential for our well-being but also for our authentic success in business.” and lows of the entrepreneurial journey.

Conclusion: Embracing Your Humanity in Entrepreneurship

In the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship, it’s easy to lose sight of our humanity amidst the pressures of success and

achievement. However, embracing our humanity – feeling our feelings, releasing shame, and honoring our truth – is not only essential for our well-being but also for our authentic success in business. By manifesting authenticity, cultivating emotional intelligence, and nurturing self-compassion, we

create a foundation for genuine connection, resilience, and fulfillment in our entrepreneurial endeavors. So, dare to be human, embrace your imperfections, and let your authenticity shine as a beacon of inspiration and empowerment in the world of entrepreneurship.



“Building friendships is crucial for our well-being. Friends offer us a sense of connection, support, and joy.”

Springtime always reminds me of planting new seedlings. It is the time of year when the sunshine expands as the daylight gets longer and the plantings from earlier years begin to sprout, especially daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths. It reminds me that the plants we plant take time to grow and then blossom.

There is a profound truth in this realization: We need time to develop and eventually become the most beautiful form of ourselves. But to do that, we must prioritize our self-care and nourish ourselves. Just as we water the wells of our being and invite in sunshine moments, we can take control of our well-being and find joy in our personal growth.

My mom taught me how to garden and water seedlings. She was the first in our neighborhood to have an organic garden and would talk to the birds while in nature. As a young girl, my role was to pick the blackberries, even though I ate more than I brought back to the house, and to weed the garden.

This reminds me of my mother’s best friend, Grace, our next-door neighbor. She and my mother used to bake Italian cookies together, and Grace taught her a new recipe for Utica Greens, a sautéed green dish with a bit of spice that’s famous in Utica, New York. Over the years, their friendship grew stronger, and it became even more apparent when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Grace, my Aunt Joan, Roberta, Joyce, and a group of supportive women who called themselves the tribes of women’s

new seedlings, even when we forget that they need time to grow.

Why Friendships are Important? Building friendships is crucial for our well-being. Friends offer us a sense of connection, support, and joy. They stand by us during tough times and help us deal with life’s challenges. Research suggests solid social connections can improve physical and mental health outcomes.

Here are some quick ideas for planting new seedlings and fostering connections:

If the weeds went too long without tending, Mom would remind me that one can’t let the weeds strangle out the flowers and the veggies. These ‘weeds’ are the negative thoughts, the self-doubt, and the stress that can crowd out our abilities to foster our health and become the best versions of ourselves. Just like in a garden, we need to regularly tend to these ‘weeds’ in our lives to make sure they don’t overtake the beauty and potential within us.

friendships rallied around her. They were always there for each other, praying with my mother, bringing her food, and lifting her spirits. This experience taught me the power of connections and friendships.

It’s amazing how women can rise to the occasion and lift each other’s spirits even in the darkest moments of despair. These women served as a reminder always to foster hope for the future and to plant

- Host a planting party with friends. Share stories and enjoy each other’s company while planting new seedlings.

- Join or start a community garden to meet new people and work together towards a common goal. You can organize events and gatherings to connect with others with similar interests.

- Plan a nature walk or hike with friends or colleagues. This is a great way to disconnect from daily life, exercise, and enjoy the beauty of nature while building connections with others.

Laura Ponticello, a bestselling author and national publicist, loves planting and watching new seedlings grow. As an avid gardener, she connects with the power of flowers while also recognizing the value of friendships.

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Hey there, fellow entrepreneurs! It’s Kelly B and Kelly M again, small business owners, restauranteurs and hosts of the small business podcast, Getting Real with BOSSY. Today we want to talk about PR and what it means to your small business.

So, you’ve poured your heart and soul into your business venture, whether it’s a cozy café, a hip boutique, or a cutting-edge marketing firm. Have you thought about the importance of PR? If not, listen up because we’re about to tell you why it’s a game-changer for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Let’s start with the basics. What the heck is PR anyway? Think of it as your restaurant’s reputation manager, cheerleader, and storyteller all rolled into one. PR, aka Public Relations, covers everything from how you interact with customers and the media to managing your online presence and handling any sticky situations that pop up.

Picture this: you’ve just launched a game-changing product that’s going to revolutionize your industry. You just created a Vegan menu that is out of this world! You are introducing an inclusive pricing system at your salon. PR helps spread the word far and wide, whether it’s through press releases, social media buzz, or partnering with influencers who can’t wait to sing your praises. It’s all about creating a buzz and getting people excited about what you have to offer.

Why should you care about PR? Imagine saving up money for years, waiting patiently for the perfect location to become available, planning your opening and getting tucked away in a sea of competitors. Without PR, you can be invisible to potential customers. It’s just

not possible to reach everyone with basic marketing and organic growth anymore. Good PR helps builds trust and credibility, showing folks that you’re not just another faceless corporation but a brand worth rooting for. It put you in the spotlight, attracting new clients and turning your loyal fans into zombies. Yes, ZOMBIES! Zombies love your business so much that they infect their people and turn them into loyal customers too. Do yourself a favor and get the book Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman – a must for every business owner.

How do you get the most bang for your PR buck? Start by defining your brand identity and crafting a story that sets you apart from the crowd. Whether you’re all about sustainability, innovation, or good old-fashioned customer service, own it and let it shine through in everything you do.

Next, engage with your community both online and off. That means responding to customer inquiries as fast as possible, participating in local events, and showing support for other businesses in your area. Building genuine connections goes a long way in boosting your brand’s reputation and fostering loyalty among your audience.

But let’s face it, sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and you find yourself in the midst of a PR nightmare. Maybe a product didn’t work, an event went horribly wrong, or a disgruntled customer took to social media to air their grievances. Don’t panic! This is your chance to show what you’re made of and turn things around.

First - take a deep breath and resist the urge to go into hiding. Instead, address the issue head-on, hold yourself

accountable, apologize if necessary, and take quick action to make things right. Utilize Restorative Practices if necessary (check out our article from February for more information). Whether it’s offering a refund, a replacement, or simply listening to feedback, showing that you care goes a long way in winning back trust and goodwill.

Also, don’t forget about damage control online. Respond to negative reviews with professionalism and empathy, and consider reaching out privately to resolve any issues offline. Remember, every interaction is an opportunity to show the world what your business is all about. An opportunity to create another zombie.

In our 30 + years of combined business ownership, Kelly and I have learned many lessons about how to handle PR, sometimes the hard way. We have both found that being honest and transparent is often the best way to overcome negative situations and turn some naysayers into new regulars. People want to know that you are a real person - not a robot, not an absentee owner, but a real person in the community trying to make a living and support a family. We are happy to talk more about it anytime and invite you to one of our workshops. Get in touch at for more information.

So, there you have it, fellow entrepreneurs. PR may not be the flashiest or most fun part of running a business, but it’s essential for your success. With the right strategy and a lot of positivity, you’ll be well on your way to making headlines, for all the right reasons! Now, go forth and conquer the business world, one PR win at a time!




Could you share the story behind Sunshine on the Table and how it came to be a part of Rochester Woman Online Magazine?

Sunshine on the Table is the next phase of our journey. Our original company was named Expressionz by Jazz. We offered catering, custom baked desserts, and more. Since 2005! Since 2020 however, we have become exclusively an aromatherapy line. Offering wooden wick candles, wax melts, room/car sprays, and accessories. We have a core collection of 5 scents. We offer two scents per ever season. We also have a specialty line of customizable candles for special occasions (wedding, birthday, graduation, and memorial). We had the pleasure of vending several events over the years with The Rochester Woman Online Magazine. It’s an honor to be able to grow, evolve, and share our journey with you all. We have added some great products and scents and know you will enjoy them all! Our Motto is “Give the gift of sunshine”, which can be the joy you bring to that person giving them their gift, or the light the candle shines on the table!

with a lot of allergies and could not use certain products due to the ingredients. Candles were something that would cause me headaches and other symptoms. I did research on which type of candle are best and sought to buy those. Soy candles proved to be the best non toxic and biodegradable option. The issue then was the scents. I didn’t find what I

is amazing and all of my products are safe for indoor use and on skin. Our products only use the soy wax and clean scent essential oils. We don’t use any other additives.

Are they all-natural?

Yes the ingredients are all natural. They are non toxic and safe for indoor use. Candlescience offers frequent batch analysis of the US grown soybeans.

liked to smell, so I set out to make my own.

What inspired the choice of a soy base for your candle products?

The decision to use a soy base for our candles came after a lot of testing different products. We also learned about sustainability and finding the best ingredients to use for safe and quality products. I grew up

Can you tell us about the ingredients you use in your candles?

I found an amazing company named Candlescience in NC. They have all natural ingredients available. I love the consistency of their brand and have sourced with them since 2017! Their clean scent line of essential oils

How do you go about selecting the scents for your candles? The idea for the candle scents, comes from the desire to remind someone of something when they smell it. For example our memorial candle is softly scented with white rose. Along with an image of your love one, It’s a soft floral scent that is not too strong. The combination pairs well for a gift to be given during the time of bereavement. In the beginning it was trial and error. I would go based off of the amazing descriptions that Candlescience gave. I would order and make blends until the full line was created. Then Candlescience opened a warehouse. I was then able to go and sample and test all of the fragrances. Their facility is amazing! After carefully reviewing many samples we achieved a line that every scent is designed for enjoying and promote positive energy!

What motivated you to start your own business, particularly in the candle industry?

“ It’s an honor to be able to grow, evolve, and share our journey with you all.”

This business began in high school after I joined the D.E.C.A. Club. I took classes on finance and marketing that fueled my entrepreneurial spirit! Also, as I stated earlier I have allergies. My husband and children do as well, so the products we use and burn in our home are very important to us. I started making candles for myself to avoid headaches and buying scents that I didn’t really enjoy. I took my time to design a line that has a scent for everyone to find something they like. Outside of the traditional scents that maybe available.

Could you share some of your personal favorite scents from your product line?

Our personal favorite scent is the candle called Rochester Woman. I am from Rochester, NY and I grew up going to the lilac festival. That smell and past time meant so much to me growing up. As a young woman I was lucky enough to live in the area of the festival and the smell of lilacs would fill my home once a year! This purple candle symbolizes royalty and the beauty of the lilac flowers. A fan favorite candle is the fly me out. This candle is tropically scented without using coconut. There are notes of mango and island cocktails. The idea of vacation and sunshine is the memory this candle evokes.

What has been your primary platform for sales so far?

Our primary platform has been word of mouth. We have done more sales in person while vending or through family and associates. As for online use, we love Etsy. The platform is easy to use and gets your products in-front of people all over the world. We post on the social media platforms Instagram and TikTok.

Posting pictures of our behind the scenes and still some recipe content. We are designing our own website currently to launch later this summer. The website will have an online store but also more about our mission as a brand and other content!

Do you have plans to expand Sunshine on the Table into other product lines in the future?

Our long term goal is to be available in a few stores or boutiques. We would like to stay small batch for as long as possible. We will be adding warmers and some other cool accessories to our line. As for candles we are currently very happy with the line and the scents available!

How do you ensure the quality and consistency of your candle products?

We have many procedures in place to ensure a clean and sterile environment when the candle are produced. We use products and ingredients from the same manufacturer and follow the instructions and step for proper production of candles. We utilize the videos that Candlescience provided to make sure that all the candle are as close to the same as possible. We weight and measure everything each time!

Can you walk us through the process of creating a new candle scent from concept to production?

The process of making a new candle for us is to have a purpose for the candle first. For example, when we designed our candle Brunch and Mimosas. This candle was designed after realizing I have a love for brunch and wanted to make that scent into a candle. I had to think what would evoke that memory.

The scent of maple syrup and sparkling drinks is all I could think of. That is exactly what this candle smells like now. Hot cake breakfast with a side cocktail! The next steps are designing the name and label and then a new candle is ready for the world!

What sets Sunshine on the Table candles apart from other brands on the market?

Sunshine on the Table is a small business with a big vision. We have goals to sell products, but to help build our community up with the profits. We use all natural and simple ingredients. We hand pour all of the products in small batches. We truly desire to put products into the world that people can enjoy but also use in an emergency as well. Wooden wick candles last longer and don’t give off heavy soot. These candles can be burned for long periods. We also pride ourselves on customer satisfaction. If you are not happy, we won’t be in business for long. Our goal is to leave this brand to our children. We can only do that through honest and fair business practices now. We are dedicated to this line and make everything truly for your enjoyment!

Have you faced any challenges as a small business owner, and if so, how have you overcome them?

We have faced many challenges as a brand over the years. One of the biggest is financing a brand from your own money, until the brand makes enough profit to support itself. Our company is now receiving enough sales to sustain our inventory and shipping budget. This took a lot of discipline and education

“Our personal favorite scent is the candle called Rochester Woman. I am from Rochester, NY and I grew up going to the lilac festival. That smell and past time meant so much to me growing up.”

on how to run a business properly. We had to take courses on how to scale back and have your brand make money for you. Marketing plays a big role in this. Even while you’re sleeping your brand can make money. Learning these skills helped keep us open and growing as a brand!

How do you stay inspired and creative when developing new candle products?

The creative process is truly enjoyable. We love what we are doing and sought to create this brand. We took our time and really created what we love and are very proud of the products we currently offer. Time and technology brings new opportunities for evolution, so we will always keep an open mind to new ideas and products. We pay close attention to the needs of our consumers. As long as we have products available that people really can enjoy we are doing our job.

Are there any sustainability initiatives

or practices that Sunshine on the Table follows?

Yes, we have several practices in place to help us leave a better footprint of the world and the next generation. We use products that are certified to protect the environment and the sustainability of the sources. We source our labels from a company that uses recycled paper. We encourage people to repurpose their candle glass when done and recycle any other materials from our shipment. We use biodegradable boxes and packing peanuts when shipping. We also have a non-profit organization that we donate to that is dedicated to bettering the environment and helping the less fortunate.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own candle business?

My advice to an aspiring entrepreneur would be to take your time. It’s not a race against brands that have had time

and finance that you may or may not see one day. It’s not a race against other small businesses. If you are pursuing a passion and a purpose it’s only a race against yourself. You can get in your own way and slow yourself down, but don’t ever allow others to do so. Keep a pace you’re comfortable with and always keep going. Ask quality questions when given the opportunity to be around those who have come before you. Always be prepared to learn or take a note on a lesson. You never know when knowledge will present itself, but you want to obtain it. Keep faith in your beliefs and morals. No amount of money or notoriety should ever compromise that. Lastly, I would say have fun. Knowing always it’s your job, but you can love what you do!


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At any given time, I’ll have numerous random objects within the pockets of my clothing, I always have. I prefer pockets to purses, and I suppose that in itself says something about my personality. I never knew in high school what exactly I needed that luggage size suitcase for, as I had a backpack. I went along with the trend though and would carry one. And that’s where I,leaving it behind and having to backtrack the next day to find it, all began. It makes sense as it never held much importance to me. My pockets are what held what I deemed significant anyway. Pockets on my skin tight jeans held an ID, pockets of my Jean or leather jacket held the cigarettes I smoked, because I thought smoking was cool. The picture of us cool girls behind the school, just off school property proves how cool we actually were. Credit for that pic goes to one of us cool gals of the late 80’s. Truly still Finding our identities and I believe most girls were inside

Those overly large purses. Pockets of my back pack held any items I should need, such as aqua net, lighters, rolling papers and such. So for me a purse was just a giant sack of random, after thoughts, like receipts or a pen. Sometimes I would put make up in it so as to not carry an empty sack around. I didn’t really refresh mine like the other girls did, as I didn’t wear much anyways. My brother and best friend would call me a clown if I wore it, And so most times I went without. I still do.

These days I prefer a small sachel or Fanny pack if need be, but pockets

are still my best friend. I’m older and there’s no need to be cool anymore. FYI, we never really were. So these days all I need is my license, cash or card and that’s it. I have found though that my favorite thing to carry around within it is still receipts. I have a ton of those. Maybe I’ve always had a receipt hoarding issue. There’s a gazillion Shoved in crumpled up, falling out and just taking up the empty space within. And as usual, if I go out with a little purse, chances are I’m going to leave it behind. So, I tend to put what I need in my pockets.

Nowadays if you stop over at my house, the random stuff I’ll have in my pockets instead of lighters and papers, could be skrews, nails, coins, wire cutters,dog treats, pieces of wire, a knife, a carpet cutter, a screwdriver and more. I’ve even found a $20 or $50 bill in a coat from last season. The items in my pockets have changed over time as I too have changed as a person. From a kid who once carried a frog home in a pocket, baby chicks, or yeah nails even back then, as I was constantly trying to build the world’s best fort. As an adolescent who was trying to fit in so I made sure to always have a lighter, someone always needed to light a Smoke.

Then to the young mom who has snack packs, pacifiers and cookie crumbs in her pockets. Turned into a middle aged mom of teenagers carrying Kleenex, chewing gum and a checkbook, as you never knew what concert would make you cry, or if something needed to get paid for,and still always losing the dreaded purse if I tried that route again. So

pockets it was. Pockets of a flannel, my pants and my coat.

It’s strange looking back to the early stages of life where the essentials were things like small tools,the backpack for bigger ones. Creating that fort or fixing my bicycle was a never ending job. These days it’s as if my house is now that fort and I’m forever wrapping myself up in a DIY job I have no business thinking I can accomplish. But like my mom used to say, if you have half a brain, the tools and the tools needed, you can do anything. I’m convinced this mantra is actual facts, as this old country farm home has become my ongoing project. SoI have all sorts of work items and gadgets that I put into my pockets. I’ve single handedly replaced ceiling fan lights fixtures, a kitchen and bathroom sink. I did have to call my son Jake tho to walk me through what to do when the old copper fittings won’t come lose. Thank goodness he too lives by the mantra gramma instilled. I’ve tore a whole kitchen apart and am slowly putting a new one back together, I created a home business and built fencing that covers a large area where I now run a dog daycare/boarding facility right at home, in the country of the town I grew up in. If you stop by, I may be in the middle of fixing or building or tearing something apart. Depends on the day, on the weather and the dogs I have here with me. And I guarantee if I have to head out to grab something for my project, all I need will be right here in my pockets.

“We’ve been fighting this battle for a long time: begging for more than one book, one hero, one nod in our direction. I’m not surprised that the Black homeschooling movement is growing.”

Ask any two people if there has been racial progress in America and you’ll get two different answers.

On one hand, of course there has been progress. When my father was born, sixty percent of Black women (including my grandmother) worked twelve hours a day as maids. Today, two percent do. While my dad attended elementary school in Harlem, most Black people lived in the South and worked as sharecroppers; only five percent held white-collar jobs. By the time my parents married in 1962, almost a quarter of Black men held skilled jobs. Today, the majority of African Americans have left poverty behind and over sixty percent enjoy middle class life.

Thanks to the Civil Rights Act racial discrimination is illegal. Though a person may be a racist, it’s illegal for him or her to bar someone from a job or a mortgage because of race. And as much as some immigrants may want to distance themselves from Black activists, they benefit from the legislation won by Black activists. It is now also illegal to withhold a job because of national origin. Schools can’t turn away my kids; restaurants have to serve my family. The children of Southeast Asian immigrants can amass wealth and run for president. Black people are slowly entering STEM fields. We dominate in most sports and Black women are among the most educated people in the country.

All signs of progress.

And yet when I turn my attention to American schools my ebullience fades.

Suddenly I’m not sure if we’ve made any progress at all. A hundred years ago, white teachers unapologetically taught Black kids that they were inferior. Children all over the nation learned that Black people were once savages, that slavery elevated them and that they were incapable of anything but menial labor. They were told that they would never achieve anything great, that white people were intellectually, physically, and morally superior.

In response, Black historian, Carter G. Woodson, advocated for Black History Week, which later became Black History Month. He made the case for one week commemorating noteworthy Black people because he knew it was crucial for Black kids to know that people who looked like them influenced the development not only of our nation but also of human civilization. He wanted no pity, just that we would be given our fair due in school curricula. The facts would speak for themselves. Learning about the kingdoms of Kush, Mali and Songhai and people like DuBois and Booker T Washington, Bethune and Colvin, Carter and Wells, Hughes, Marshall, and Truth would dethrone white supremacy in the minds and hearts of Black and white kids. He looked forward to the day when these lessons would be enfolded into curriculum proper, taught as Black people in history, and not segregated into a separate week or month.

One hundred years later, this has still not happened. I can count on one hand (and even have fingers left over) the number of noteworthy Black people my children have studied and the number of books by

Black authors they have read in school. The message is clear, “White people and white civilizations are noteworthy; Black people and Black civilizations are not.” Some school districts have gone a step further and removed Black authors from library shelves. Now kids can’t read about Ruby Bridges even if they tried.

Is it any wonder then that racist incidents in schools across the nation have increased? White kids have no idea that they are not at the center of the universe.

Ours is a nation of white teachers, and if given the choice, some will assign books about the Black experience, but many will not. They will avoid potential discomfort and opt out of teaching the text. Progress stagnates on their watch. There was a false expectation that racism would die out with the Archie Bunker generation. Yet children today are taught, or not taught, the same things as children seventy years ago. Why should we expect different results if we continue to do the same thing? The message may be more tacit today, but it is still the same message. No wonder the myriad white supremacist groups are comprised of twenty and thirty-year-olds and not old men.

And that is why Black parents are tired. We’ve been fighting this battle for a long time: begging for more than one book, one hero, one nod in our direction. I’m not surprised that the Black homeschooling movement is growing. If I weren’t so tired, I’d be tempted to join it myself.


Some Facts about Stormy:

-8 years old

-Spayed Female

-Adopted 4/2/2024

-Came from You too Rescue- is now closed

-Adoption fee was sponsored by Jill Elston

Stormy started her journey at ACS in January of 2022. She came from another surrounding community animal shelter that was unfortunately closing their doors. Stormy spent a significant amount of her life in that shelter, and the reason was unknow. Maybe overlooked? we see that a lot with tabby (tiger stripped cats). Stormy came with a bird type enclosure that she loves to hangout in, she would often be in the highest point taking a cat nap in the sun. Stormy loved the staff, and was often avoidant of new people, probably because most of her life was spent with the shelter staff and didn’t know much else.


sitting on laps but only on her terms. Who doesn’t know a cat just like that? At the shelter we tried everything, decorating her communal to stand out to others, posting her on social media (ALL the social media sites), making her a priority meet, moving her to the break room to explore more and for

was “A compassionate individual who saw beyond Stormy’s exterior and into the depths of her soul.

They recognized the beauty in her quiet demeanor and the potential for a lifelong bond.” Just a smidge of all the amazing things her new owner said about Stormy that is too good not to share “Stormy is doing great! As soon as we brought her home, Stormy ate, drank, and used the litterbox. She also “scent marked” (rubbing on everything with their scent glands). She is always out and about and curious about things and said she is very content. Stormy’s journey to finding her forever home was filled with twists and turns, but her story is one of perseverance and hope. Stories like hers remind us of the power of love and resilience.

As Stormy entered her golden years, we were determined to find her the perfect match. Stormy liked what she liked and would let you know if she didn’t like something. She loved pets and

a more “home” like setting. From social media blitzes to redesigning her living space, we left no stone unturned. We decided that it was time to send her to an offsite adoption location that we are partnered with. Just like that, not even a week later, the perfect match met her, and had to take her home. Staff would say that the adopter

Here’s to Stormy, the cat who proved that every pet deserves a chance to shine, and every heart deserves to find its perfect match.

More information can be found here: https://animalcaresanctuary. org/events/second-chance-cidercontest/




When my daughter moved away to college two years ago, every person I ran into would say, “Aren’t you going to be lonely?” My answer was always “No, I got a dog.” I indeed got a puppy so I would have company and someone to love and care for. My answer was an obvious deflection. The truth was I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel.

I’ve learned that feeling lonely is an emotion we must learn to cope with. As much as I love “Ted” he cannot always fill the void of an empty house.

It is easy to feel more alone as we age. Our social circles get smaller and sitting on the couch and watching Netflix gets easier. Working from home can be isolating. While convenient, flexible, and productive, I sometimes miss people.

In 2023 the U.S. Surgeon General published a warning that America was in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. I’m no expert but the isolation of the pandemic and our continued reliance on social media to fill time has only made us feel more alone. I enjoy scrolling, but after I’m done, I’ve either bought a piece of clothing or a product I don’t need. I turn off the light feeling bad that my life is not as exciting as the people I see on my screen.

I am left wanting more and feeling less. We don’t talk about it, and we don’t admit it. I think even people with busy productive lives are all trying to find a way to cope with loneliness.

I met my best friend for dinner to begin planning a fall trip to London. A 60th birthday, bucket list, why have we not already done this yet – trip.

As we made small talk about the menu and dipped our bread in oil, I mentioned

potential weeks we could go. She bent her head down crying and said, “We might have to push things back because I have anal cancer.” I felt sick and immediately thought of Farrah Fawcett who died at the age of 62 from the same disease. Not knowing what to say, I made a joke. “Well, you always have been a pain in the ass.” We laughed. I made promises to be there through it all. I love her and did not want her to feel alone.

For months, we talked, and I listened. But I could not alleviate her fears and the “what if” scenarios that plagued her mind as she suffered through all the side effects and setbacks. I envied that she had such a good relationship with her husband. He was her rock.

Despite all that love and support, one day she said, “I have never felt more alone in my life. I have this disease and I have to figure out how to cope with it.” For her, loneliness was worse than cancer and she was trying to find purpose in it. People can support you, live with you, and share a house, but you still are left alone living in your head and body.

My dad’s death, single parenting, career loss, my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. All life events that have triggered deep feelings of loneliness and loss. Wine, shopping, friends, work, and food can only soothe you for so long. Loneliness should not be masked. It is only when we begin to face our fears, struggles, and personal challenges that we can begin to cope with feeling alone.

Create a Routine Routines used to make me feel bored. Now I am comforted by the discipline it takes to be intentional with daily goals and responsibilities. It is much easier to “fill” time, but that’s when the loneliness seeps in. Every day I have a plan, most days I

get things done. On other days, things go off the rails. But in the end, I go to bed excited about the next day - and the hope it offers. It fills me with subtle joy.

Reality Check Your Assumptions

Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true.

My brain can run amuck on a moment’s notice. An unanswered text, a slight remark, or a gloomy mood can send my imagination in many directions. I start to think about what others are doing, thinking, feeling, and saying, and then I create an entire story that I believe is true. You feel lonely because these assumptions are usually negative, and don’t make you feel secure. Learning to focus on the truth and what “is.”

Move it

I am best when I am tired after a long day of work, activities, and exercise. I fall asleep naturally.

Melatonin and Tylenol PM have been a decades-long crutch to help get me to sleep - but waking up with wild anxious thoughts is exhausting. When my body has moved throughout the day, I am naturally tired. Getting outside is cathartic when I feel lost, or sorry for myself. I have become a walker. The fresh air and immediate change of scenery are healing. Moving is a mood boost. Go to a class, dance around the house, hit the gym, head to a pool, or take up pickleball. There is no excuse. The irony is loneliness is a shared experience - we just don’t share or talk about it. If we take the time to deal with feeling alone it can strengthen our relationship with ourselves.

I am grateful to my friend, for showing me how to cope with being comfortable in my own company.




Pharmacology was my favorite and most challenging course in medical school. We spent the majority of the second year in the classroom. Pharmacology is a major focus during that year. We are taught so much about medication and a lot of medication. From acetaminophen (Tylenol) to clozapine, a potentially fatal drug for schizophrenia. We are taught the spectrum of drugs with their indications for management of disease, mechanism of action (how they work in the body), and pharmacokinetics (how they are excreted and metabolized by the body). Then all the potential side effects (bad reactions) that can occur and contraindications or absolute conditions where they cannot or should not be used. Oh, and then the conditions you can use but with extreme caution and monitoring. Meaning they can be detrimental to certain patients and conditions. And then, finally, all the interactions they have with other drugs. This is exhausting to say the least.

I was trained during a time when the statin drugs for cholesterol were on the forefront of management of heart disease. From the time a drug was FDA approved to 23 years later where the drugs are now considered lifesaving in acute heart attack, stroke and management of vascular disease. But now, with the bad rap of causing muscle aches and having interactions with other drugs commonly prescribed in primary care. Or, with a food that is commonly ingested, grapefruit. The dilemma of every drug is exactly this. How do you decide that the risk of a drug outweighs the benefit for every patient you encounter. This is a drug that cardiologists feel should be in

our water. This is a highly effective drug class that lowers LDL, bad cholesterol, has anti-inflammatory properties (the dreaded CRP test) and can reverse the plaque associated with all vascular disease including coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral vascular disease.

That is what a medical student learns about medication in medical school. We learn to memorize that before we can prescribe a medication or see a real patient. I spent endless hours memorizing everything about every drug available to mankind!

Then, we become physicians. Now, we have the unduly task of applying that knowledge to each patient, disease, and clinical scenario. For instance, high blood pressure is a common disease and one we encounter daily with patients. There are guidelines for management of most diseases, but we still must think. In a patient with a blood pressure of 150 / 90, what is the best medication to treat them with after we have tried lifestyle changes, but the blood pressure remains high? Should I use a diuretic or beta blocker or an ace inhibitor? We must consider age, race, kidney function, pulmonary function, other symptoms or other diseases that the patient has. What other drugs are they taking and what will benefit them as a whole or what would be detrimental as a side effect or drug-drug interaction? We do all of this in the short amount of time that we have with each patient. Now, you understand the wheels and how fast they are turning in our heads. We think fast and furiously about coming up with

the right drug or the right treatment. This is what really goes on in a room with you and a physician.

We’re extremely well trained in that decision making. Repetition and experience make us very good at it. A skillfully trained physician with a lot of experience is what I would seek as a patient. This is why it is called medication management of disease. It is not just refilling the prescription; it is much more than that. For example, when was the last time I checked this person’s blood pressure or saw them face to face? Have I done my prescreening to continue this medication like labs to look at kidney and liver function or any potential drug-drug interactions with medications specialists have placed the patient on. And then, does the patient still need the medication having lost 20 lbs. and now he’s dizzied from it because they’re over medicated. I’m still talking about medication and lifestyle management for high blood pressure. So, you see, my point is that this is not just about refilling your medication, you need medication management by a physician. That is what proper medication management means. Patients should be demanding to see their physicians at times of refills not the other way around. We should be discussing every single medication a patient is on at least once a year. This is good patient care, and patients deserve it.



How to Creatively Rest Without Guilt

Societal norms send us messaging in the media, on social media and almost everywhere you look, telling us that now is our time. You just have to go for it and do what we always dreamt of doing, being or becoming. The only thing holding you back is you or that you need to hustle to attain those big goals and dreams. But maybe now isn’t your time and the hustle of it all is chipping away at your inner peace? Reevaluating your current goals and means of attaining them, may be in order. Creating a space for yourself to step back and “just be” might be exactly what’s in order for you right now.

So, what if today you’re being asked to rest and stop persevering and instead your heart, mind and greater consciousness are asking you to take some time to recharge and reconsider your current path? How does that look to you or feel in your core being? You are allowed to say “no” to the pressure and messaging to find our center again and balance in our daily lives. We must first be willing to release expectations of ourselves or of others. Knowing that it’s okay to no know what feels right in this exact moment and instead, take the next right action for what it is our soul truly needs in this exact moment. I like to think of this as personal grace.

Creativity stems from a well-rested mind. We lose focus and motivation and productivity when we don’t take time to rest and reenergize our minds, bodies and spirits. It causes us to have a higher tendency towards anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, heart disease, impaired judgment, lower tolerance and patience and an overall lower quality of life. This could be the time that your mind and

body are asking for a reprieve so that you can do and become all that you hope for because you honored your inner voice and gave it what it needs. You can’t shine when you’ve used up all your fuel.

“Forget about the like and dislikes; they are of no consequence. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.” George Bernard Shaw

Having lived over a half century, I can use past experiences, good and bad, to help me see what matters. I have begun to take my mental health seriously and I protect my personal space fiercely yet lovingly. This stems from doing the hard work to know myself deeply. I have learned what is worthy of celebrating or working through and what can either wait or be let go of. Recognizing the why of what it is I’m striving for has been incredibly helpful. As I take inventory of my emotions and where they stem from, I get the opportunity to prioritize what is truly here for me to dig deeper into and things that I am allowing ego to run me ragged and kill my motivation. I love to use creative means to sort out all my inner rumblings and narrow down the steps I need to take to get there. Even if it takes me longer to get to my end goal.

I first like to start out by being realistic, which is a huge challenge for me. I have begun to learn that by granting myself longer timelines and grace during the process to accomplish my goals not only alleviates stress and anxiety. Especially because our lives are busy and aren’t always conducive to doing things in a conventional manner. This form of benevolence allows for creative flow and new possibilities that I wouldn’t have discovered if I had rushed myself. Stepping

back and knowing that currently there are others out there whose time it truly is to shine can assist me in having the space I need to fully realize my potential for whatever I wish to accomplish. This then allows them to rest once your time to shine is here. That’s how we support one another and work as one. Think of it as if you’re doing shift work. (I do some of my best work during C Trick when I can’t sleep or wake up from an incredibly helpful dream.)

“God comforts the disturbed and distributes the comfortable.” Unknown

Journaling and then drawing those written ideas or depicting vivid dreams I have in my sketchbook is an exercise that has been a wonderful form of therapy for me. It works as a visual map for my hopes and dreams and what I either wish them to look like or how to go about arriving there. I can rework the illustrations with color, verbiage, composition, or whatever feels would move it in the direction I am resonating with also creates a fresh way of seeing the whole picture without judgement. I will also take nature walks to feel into what it is I need to do next, and reconnecting is also a great go-to when I am feeling muddled or depleted. Bringing my sketchbook along and art supplies for writing, painting, or drawing what is capturing my attention, gives my mind a quiet space to breathe and feel into where it is I am in my life and ensure it is of service to myself and the world. That sacred space is where we find our purpose and the beauty within that makes your gifts come to the surface.

If you are in the midst of trying to accomplish that big goal and you’re struggling, can you be okay with waving the white flag until you find a healthier


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“Forget about the like and dislikes; they are of no consequence. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.”

or better way to get to the pinnacle of your greatest visions for you? It has taken me years to be okay with not being okay, having chosen incorrectly or just needing to rest. Reminding myself I’m human and making mistakes is part of our growth has allowed grace to be my new best friend. Without that, we can become anxiety-ridden while meanwhile we stay stagnant and unfulfilled. It also strips us of our inherent value and the birthright to experience joy each day.

Once we have rested or taken what it is we need, use those new self-care skills you attained and shine brightly again. Do not stay stagnant, overthinking or worrying about outcomes any longer.

This is when procrastinating can take hold and thwart our best of intentions. It is a form of fear that keeps us in a state of exhaustion and anxiety. You have the answers you need inside of you, and they are just awaiting your signal to be unleashed. You have a purpose that will bring light into the world. When we collectively make this our mission, the light grows exponentially.

“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action arises, stop things and go in.” Andrew Jackson

Beginning today, ask your inner self what it is it needs? If you’re feeling strong, rested, and raring to go, GO! If you

aren’t, know that that’s okay first and foremost. Think back to a time when you did something that gave you intense joy or fits of laughter. What do you need to do to get more of that? Look to those who have modeled the way of living that feels best for your own goals and dreams and incorporate those habits into your everyday life. Make reminders or add it to a vision board; whatever it takes to move forward in a healthy and happier means of existence. You are deserving to that, too. Once you realize that, your light illuminates the path for those who come after you. That is how you become a servant of the Universe and love and it’s so beautiful!




“Less than 30 percent of High School Seniors are qualified to serve in the US Military and less than 9 percent have an interest in serving.”

In today’s society our Youth spends more time on screens than they often do playing outside and being active, this in conjunction with unhealthy foods and an overall sedentary lifestyle has led to an increase in childhood obesity. In addition many within the youth population struggle academically due to lack of classroom time from the Pandemic and educational systems that oftentimes pass kids through due to lack of resources and structure. In totality this overall situation has provided challenges for the US Military and their Recruiting efforts.

Less than 30 percent of High School Seniors are qualified to serve in the US Military and less than 9 percent have an interest in serving. Many are never exposed to Military service and all of the benefits it can provide, oftentimes High School students view College and Trade Schools as their only option, Military Service is a last resort or something you are drafted into. For the 70 percent who are unqualified Academics and Fitness are the main obstacles that prevent one from serving, due to the aforementioned issues above. These realities facing our American youth have caused the US Military to adapt their entrance standards to accommodate, adding additional challenges with US Military recruiting nationwide.

The remedy for the US Military and its recruiting effort is also a remedy for our Youth of today and a brighter future for America overall. In a time of oversensitivity and participation trophies, victim mentality is often taught to our youth from parents, educators and peers. This false sense of reality runs in contrast with the true nature of the world, it weakens our youth academically, physically and emotionally. What we feel is needed is a return to core American values such as honor, courage, discipline and confidence. A strong work ethic with a burning desire to improve. More focused screen time, better relationships with their parents, family structure, playing outside, physical activity, healthy foods, reading, academics and leadership.

It is our mission with our company American Warrior to inspire our Youth to learn about Military service through Military branded Entertainment such as movies, music, podcasting, gaming, blogging and social media. Allowing the youth an avenue to explore what the military is all about and how they can serve their country while gaining valuable skills and work experience is paramount to a strong workforce, community and the future of America.

Academically we aim to improve

by enticing our youth to join reading clubs, engage in academic tutoring outside of school and learn through peer to peer interaction and educational programs that keep them engaged and eager to learn. It’s time to reach out to our youth from all walks of life to ensure that we can provide top level resources to every child regardless of their background and family history.

In recent years participation in sports and physical activity has waned as kids spend more time inside and on screens. As a society we can aim for kids to spend more time outside moving their bodies and communicating in person with their peers. Bring back competition, success and failure in the world of sports is one of lifes greatest teachers, preparing our youth for the great times and challenging times in life. A physically healthy body is a temple, it is the foundation for a healthy, powerful life.

In closing what is good for the future of our Military is also very beneficial to the future of America. A generation that is strong physically, mentally and academically, ready to take on the world with all of the tools they will ever need to succeed.



“The remedy for the US Military and its recruiting effort is also a remedy for our Youth of today and a brighter future for America overall.”






For Spinal Injuries

Spinal injuries can be debilitating and life-altering, affecting a person’s quality of life in numerous ways. From acute traumatic incidents to degenerative conditions, spinal injuries can range from mild discomfort to severe impairment. Traditional treatment methods for spinal injuries often involve Chiropractic care, physical therapy, pain management, and in some cases, surgery. However, recent advancements in medical technology have paved the way for innovative approaches to treating spinal injuries, one of which is the use of Softwave Tissue Regenerative Technologies.

Softwave Tissue

Regenerative Technologies utilize high-energy sound waves to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes and promote tissue regeneration. By delivering targeted energy waves to the affected area, Softwave therapy triggers the release of growth factors and stimulates the formation of new blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. This results in accelerated healing and repair of damaged tissues, helping to alleviate pain and improve function in patients with spinal injuries.

their non-invasive nature. Softwave therapy does not require incisions or anesthesia, reducing the risk of complications and shortening recovery times, it can also be performed when a patient has limited mobility due to pain, making rehab or active care difficult. This makes it an attractive option for patients who are looking for alternative treatments to surgery or who may not be candidates for invasive procedures.

Another advantage of Softwave Tissue Regenerative Technologies is their potential to enhance the effects of other treatment modalities, such as chiropractic care and physiotherapy. By combining Softwave therapy with traditional rehabilitation techniques, healthcare providers can create comprehensive treatment plans that address both the underlying cause of the spinal injury and the symptoms associated with it. This integrated approach can lead to more successful outcomes and improved long-term prognosis for patients with spinal injuries.

One of the key benefits of Softwave Tissue Regenerative Technologies is

Additionally, Softwave therapy is a versatile treatment option that can be used to target a variety of spinal conditions, including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease. By promoting tissue regeneration and reducing inflammation, Softwave therapy can help improve mobility, reduce pain, and enhance overall function in patients with spinal injuries.

Softwave Tissue Regenerative Technologies offers a promising solution for patients with spinal injuries seeking noninvasive, effective treatment options. By harnessing the power of shockwave therapy to stimulate tissue regeneration and promote healing, Softwave therapy can help alleviate pain, improve function, and enhance the quality of life for individuals suffering from spinal conditions. With its versatility, safety, and potential for synergistic effects with other treatment modalities, Softwave therapy is poised to revolutionize the way we approach spinal injuries in the future.


“Softwave Tissue Regenerative Technologies offers a promising solution for patients with spinal injuries seeking non-invasive, effective treatment options.”



Mandisa’s song, Overcomer, played at an event I attended where I stood on stage and ended a 14-year toxic relationship. Now, Mandisa is gone at only 47 years old.

This contemporary Christian singer impacted my life. She appeared on “American Idol” and then won a Grammy in 2013 for that album. I attended a Woman of Faith conference years ago where she spoke and told her story and how she overcame many challenges. It inspired me.

We overcome and rise up, but sometimes we fall back. The key is not to stay down and allow our ‘demons’ to consume us. We are not meant to stuff and ignore our emotions. It’s okay to feel those emotions, but not let our emotions control us or run our lives.

Is there a missing piece in your life? Does it feel like a deep hole that you don’t know how to fill? I did too. That inspired me to write my first book: Hole to Whole: Journey to Hope and Transformation.

If we are not doing the inner work on ourselves, we will keep repeating emotional patterns that are unhealthy that keep us trapped and in bondage. Mental wellness and emotional wholeness is essential.

There was a time I was in a state of brokenness and confusion. It nearly cost me my life. I made irrational and unwise decisions. That was a dark season in my life. Thankfully, by the grace of God, I broke free and discovered my true identity and destiny.

Most people are living a small life and haven’t tapped into their true greatness.

They can do more than they think they can. I realized I could do more than I had ever done before. Now, instead of staying invisible and keeping silent, I am in front of the camera and on stages and using my voice to share my message that is impacting lives. I am meeting amazing influencers, like Bryan Dulaney, thanks to Mike Fomkin, Deneen White, and Alycia Kaback. Now, I am an influencer too.

My mentors, Les Brown and Jesus, revealed to me my greater purpose and helped me unlock my true identity and destiny, empowering me to reach my higher potential.

Jim Rohn said, “Service to others leads to greatness.”

Now, my mission is to help you unlock your greatness. Get ready to discover a power within yourself you haven’t tapped into yet.

Specifically, if you struggle with selfsabotage, self-doubt, fear, procrastination, and toxic relationships, I can help you overcome those challenges.

Remember the importance of doing the inner work on yourself. Believe in yourself and know that anything is possible. With the right mentors, a clear vision, and daily action, you can transform your life and make your dreams a reality.

Feeling disconnected from your true identity can lead to a range of emotional struggles and challenges. Without a clear understanding of who you are, it may be difficult to navigate life’s ups and downs, leading to feelings of doubt, confusion, and dissatisfaction. Discovering your true identity can be a powerful catalyst for

healing, growth, and finding a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It can provide a solid foundation from which you can build healthy relationships, pursue meaningful goals, and experience greater joy and satisfaction in life.

There are several ways to release and heal buried emotions. I have tools and techniques that help people with that. I finally decided to be bold and courageous and start sharing with others what has made a difference for me.

It’s as easy as ABC -- Achieve – Believe –Conceive. These are the core elements in my program. This PROVEN PROCESS begins with Phase 1 – ACHIEVE, which is the Breakthrough phase.

How many of you have struggled with confusion, self-doubt, imposter syndrome, shame, or guilt and feel like giving up?

I get it, I’ve been there too. That is why I designed Phase 1 to acknowledge where you are now and move you to where you want to be.

In Phase 1, I teach 3 key elements:

1) The true lens of LOVE (Like Tina Turner sang, What’s love got to do with it? A lot, actually).

2) See a LARGER vision of yourself beyond your circumstances.

3) Take responsibility for where you are and make the commitment to move forward.

Phase 2 – BELIEVE – It’s Possible

The 3 steps in this phase covers:

1) Believe in Yourself

2) Choose optimism, not overwhelm

3) Empowering you with courage, clarity, and confidence

“Is there a missing piece in your life? Does it feel like a deep hole that you don’t know how to fill? I did too. That inspired me to write my first book: Hole to Whole: Journey to Hope and Transformation.”

Phase 3 – CONCEIVE -- Transformation

This phase is where you experience transformation with these 3 steps:

1) Awareness of your true identity

2) Design your future

3) Create and implement your plan

If you had this solution and guidance in your life, wouldn’t that begin to move those areas where you have felt stuck?

No matter what you believe or what you’ve been through, come with an open mind and heart. It’s no accident that you’re reading this article. It’s your time.

It’s no accident that I am writing this message for you today. My life was spared for a reason. You see, there was a time when I went down a dangerous, destructive path that nearly cost me my life and my family. It resulted in guilt, shame, self-sabotage and selfhatred and caused so much hurt that

I could not undo.

Thankfully, that Lori no longer exists. I reinvented myself. I am not defined by my past and neither are you.

It’s possible to REINVENT yourself no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done. You can always better your best despite anyone else’s opinions. Les Brown said, “Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.”

You are loved and accepted. Your voice matters. What is it costing you to stay where you are? What if you don’t take the time to resolve what’s keeping you stuck?

What do you want your life to look like? What are your goals and dreams? Do you want to write a book, speak, travel, build and grow your business?

These are the outcomes that are

possible for you:

• What is waiting for you on the other side of this journey of working with me is having a larger vision and deeper love for yourself.

• You will have healthier relationships and quality connections.

• You will gain the optimism and belief of doing more, achieving more, and knowing it’s possible.

• You will learn new beliefs, behaviors, and strategies.

• You will develop the confidence, clarity, and passion to do what it takes to live the life you were born to live.

• You will discover a new vision and create an action plan to transform your life.

• You will come alive in a new way and be excited to wake up every day.

Join me on this journey of hope and transformation. I am looking forward to hearing from you. Email: hello@ or text 585-371-8328. If you want to take it to a higher level,





Journey through Aging and Menopause” Insights from a Fitness Trainer and Health Coach

As I “gracefully” entered my 50s, I realized that health and wellness hold an even greater significance in my life. With each passing year, I have experienced the unique challenges that come with aging and embarking on the adventure known as Midlife & Menopause. As a fitness trainer and health coach, I am fortunate to combine my personal encounters with professional knowledge, helping women over 40 embrace a holistic approach to their well-being. In this week’s Midlife Monday, I intend to share my insights and recommendations on health and wellness practices tailored specifically for women over 40.

Discovering the Power of Exercise

One thing I have learned throughout my own journey is that exercise is not just about maintaining physical health, but also about nurturing mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Regular physical activity has been an essential cornerstone of my health routine. Engaging in cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises has helped me manage weight fluctuations, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and maintain a positive body image.

However, as women, our bodies undergo countless changes, predominantly during menopause. When it comes to exercise, it’s crucial to listen to our bodies and adapt our routines accordingly. My new motto is “Just because I can doesn’t mean I should”. Gone are the days of plyometrics, rebounding and box jumps. Through my professional experience, I have discovered that incorporating more lowimpact activities like walking, resistance training and yoga can be immensely beneficial. Not only do these exercises

help in strengthening muscles, improving balance, and enhancing flexibility, but they also promote relaxation and stress reduction. Get the The Menopausal Woman’s Guide to Working Out

Nurturing the Mind and Soul

Menopause is not just a physical transition but an emotional and psychological one as well. Hormonal changes can sometimes leave us feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or even downhearted. I still struggle daily with anxiety and emotional regulation. But as I have learned during this phase of life, embracing self-care practices becomes vital for our overall well-being. I have found that incorporating mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and journaling, can greatly help alleviate stress, improve mental clarity, and cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness. Download my free Stress Management Guide here

The Importance of a Balanced Diet

Alongside exercise and self-care practices, maintaining a balanced diet is key to supporting our bodies through the changes brought about by aging and menopause. As a health coach, I have helped countless women adjust their nutritional habits to ensure they receive the vital nutrients their bodies need.

Following a Mediterranean-based diet plan, with a focus on incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into my meals can provide essential antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can promote bone & cardiovascular health but also help me to manage my weight and energy levels that may be affected by both hormonal shifts in menopause and aging. Download my free Mediterranean Diet Plan Guide Here

Building a Support Network

Navigating the challenges of aging and menopause can often feel overwhelming,

but it is important to remember that we are not alone. Building a strong support network can make a significant difference in our journey to optimal health and wellness. Connecting with like-minded individuals can foster a sense of belonging and provide an avenue for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and finding inspiration.

That is why I created Midlife and Menopause Makeover. A private community for Midlife Women to share their stories, ask questions, and become more informed on how to care for themselves in this stage of life. Join Here!


My own journey through aging and menopause, coupled with my professional expertise as a fitness trainer and health coach, has taught me the importance of holistic well-being for women over 40. Through incorporating exercise, self-care practices, a balanced diet, and building a support network, we can radiate vitality and embrace our unique beauty at every stage of life.

Remember, we are all on this journey together, and by sharing our experiences and knowledge, we empower each other to make health and wellness a lifelong commitment. Let us continue to celebrate the strength and resilience within us and inspire future generations to come.

Together, let’s thrive in the face of aging and conquer the world with confidence and grace! To learn more visit my website at

Looking for guidance and support? Book a free consultation call here (Remember to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure an effective management plan tailored to your individual needs.)



Rejection is an undisputed fact of life. We all face rejection, in one form or another, throughout our lives.

Some of us may face more episodes of rejection than others. Obviously, those of us who are hypersensitive are more likely to encounter more frequent periods of rejection. If we tend to overpersonalize neutral events in our lives, we will also be more likely to interpret them as incidents of rejection.

We feel rejection when we face the loss of something that we deeply valued or wanted. Rejection has been defined as the act of pushing someone or something away.

There are many possible explanations for why we encounter rejection in our lives. It’s important to remember that, many times, rejection is unrelated to who we are. However, it may reflect that someone else does not accept a specific type of behavior that we have exhibited.

Rejection is painful because it violates our fundamental need to belong. Experiencing rejection is so painful because it destabilizes our basic need to be a member of a social group. In fact, experiencing social rejection activates the same brain pathways that are activated when we experience physical pain. It is “hard-wired” in us to belong to one another, to need each other in meaningful, reliable ways. When this fails to happen, it hurts.

Those of us who have secure attachment styles are more likely to be resilient after

facing rejection. Attachment styles refer to those models which form the patterns of how we view relationships in our lives. These attachment styles are typically provided by our parents, or primary caregivers.

Personally, I’ve recently been challenged by rejections in my personal and professional life, neither of which was pleasant to deal with at all. After only having met with me for one session, a teletherapy client chose to transfer to another therapist. I was never informed about the reason why. Perhaps she didn’t like my theoretical orientation, or maybe our schedules simply failed to line up. I try to focus my energies on working effectively with those clients who do choose to work with me, rather than to waste my resources on trying to figure out why I’m not a good fit for someone.

Also, I recently decided to reach out to a college friend, someone whom I had not been in contact with for thirty years; he chose to not respond to me. I decided to graciously wish him well, and simply let this issue go. Again, I have decided to direct my limited energy towards those individuals who have expressed interest in maintaining an ongoing, bidirectional friendship. Life is far too short to focus on those who fall away along the way, in my humble opinion.

How we choose to respond to rejection is incredibly important. Healthy responses to encountering rejection involve the following steps: 1). Fully acknowledge that the rejection has

occurred (don’t try to deny it); 2). Attempt to learn something valuable from the experience (no experience need ever be wasted in our lives, even if painful); 3). Process your emotional reaction to rejection (feel sadness, anger, and/or anxiety); 4). Practice selfcompassion (be gentle with yourself, and acknowledge that rejection means that you were willing to take a risk); 5). Engage in healthy practices (eat healthy, get enough sleep, exercise, and hydrate); and, 6) Be willing to risk taking another chance in the future (don’t assume that a previous experience of rejection will inevitably be repeated in the future).

One essential means of buffering one’s self against rejection involves improving your self-esteem. Doing so will help you to become more resistant to feeling upset when others fail to include you in valued events or activities. Make a list of your positive attributes, your valued personality traits, your meaningful contributions, etc. Doing so will help raise your self-esteem, as well as potentially reveal deficits to work on remedying.

Although we rarely recognize it immediately after it takes place, sometimes rejection can be the very best thing that could ever possibly happen to us. That’s because it redirects our path in an entirely different, but ultimately better, direction.



“Yoga postures are just one kind of yoga – there is breathing, meditation, ethics and more.”

If you are new to yoga it can be overwhelming figuring out which class to go to when you are looking at your local studio or gym’s schedule. Sometimes class descriptions are in English, and sometimes even more challenging, Sanskrit. So what do these class titles mean? The short answer is, it depends! Since yoga has been around for thousands of years, many lineages and varieties have emerged. Many modern yoga teachers can’t agree on it. I remember sitting in a meeting at a gym pre-Pandemic with a manger and three other yoga teachers trying to stream-line the descriptions so participants knew what to expect. We were all trained at different schools, so it was hard to find common ground early on – but we did know that our class participants were benefitting from class, whatever we called it.

The intention of this article is to help you discern which class might be for you by explaining what many popular class formats might entail. There are new brands popping up around the world pseudo-regularly. The history and origins of each style is rich, so much so that this entire article cannot do them justice. To really do a deep dive I would recommend taking a course on the Yoga Sutras to better understand how yoga postures came to be.

As you read through these, I encourage you to find a balanced approach. If you are a runner or do a lot of HIIT training you may be called naturally to Power classes, because you can do them, but push yourself out of your comfort zone and do some gentle classes, your

body appreciates variety. Likewise, if you are always taking it easy, let your yoga class be a place to invite some challenge into your movement practice. Restorative Yoga: This is like a supported nap. The perfect way to take a break from a hectic lifestyle, don’t expect any calorie burn here. The instructor will put you in a restful, supported position (for example, lying on your back with a bolster under your knees) and let you relax for several minutes at a time before moving to a different posture. These restful breaks are great for your nervous system. The goal is actually to feel not much of anything but supported. If you have a busy brain you may find this challenging. If you can relax into the present moment mentally, your muscles will relax.

Yin Yoga: Like Restorative yoga, but with more spice. You will typically stay in postures for several minutes, but there will be more of a stretching sensation. This is good to practice finding moderation – maybe you could sit down, reach for your toes and find them – but could you do it for eight minutes? If not, you can challenge yourself to back off and find a more sustainable edge. Great if you like to ease into or deepen postures and practice that feeling of letting go. Gentle Yoga: A great way to practice slowing down, but with more movement and blood flow than restorative or Yin. Classes may include range of motion and breathing exercises. Expect stretching, and slower transitions between postures with the possibility of some balance work, and rest at the end of class.

Hatha Yoga: Take time to learn yoga postures. The instructor will likely take time to break down postures step by step, some will be gentle and some may build more strength. Expect a mix of postures on the floor and standing with rest at the end.

Vinyasa Yoga: This is a class where one posture generally flows to the next, challenging your core and balance. Expect standing and balance postures with rest at the end. It can be great practice in transitioning as well as breath control. Expect rest at the end. Power Yoga: This will be like Vinyasa for some sections of class in that you are moving rather quickly, sometimes even practicing just one breath in the movement and then moving to the next pose. You will also hold challenging postures for an extended period (think, isometric hold) to build strength and balance. Expect rest at the end.

Candlelit Yoga: This could be any of the above styles, but in a dark candlelit room. Designed to tune out the extra sensory stimulation and create an experience where you are more focused on yourself and what you are feeling to help you unwind.

Goat/Puppy/Alpaca Yoga: Let go of what you think a yoga class is supposed to be like in terms of exercise and relaxation, and just enjoy your time in nature. Goats and puppies may crawl all over you, you may stop to feed the animals. Connecting with animals (and the dirt if you’re outside) feeds our need for touch, connection and grounded-ness.


“Trauma Sensitive Yoga: If you have experienced something traumatic in your lifetime, or even dislike a bossy instructor, this format may be for you.”

Trauma Sensitive Yoga: If you have experienced something traumatic in your lifetime, or even dislike a bossy instructor, this format may be for you. Instructors should be trained in invitational language to let you explore the yoga postures in an intuitive, mindful way that gives you room to back away if anything feels too intense

or disturbing. As a reminder, you are always in control in any yoga class.

Hot Yoga: Really any style of yoga can be done in a hot room, but traditionally Hot Yoga will have a set series of challenging poses you do in a room 95-105° Fahrenheit.

Feel like you don’t want to move at all? Yoga postures are just one kind of yoga – there is breathing, meditation, ethics and more. Don’t give up, reach out to me at PenfieldYogaTherapy. Com and we can point you in the right direction.

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