Business women of New Jersey honored [Asbury Park Press, N.J.]
(Asbury Park Press (NJ) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 21--Despite the stereotype that the business world can sometimes be a "boys' club," women are particularly suited for business, says Karen Martinez-Wardzinski. "I love women in management positions. They are very detail oriented, and they give you 120 percent all of the time," says Martinez-Wardzinski, founder and owner of Bravo Building Services, a facility service and outsourcing company based in Green Brook.
Martinez-Wardzinski recently was recognized as a finalist for the Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners Award. The initiative was created in 2011 by the Leading Women Entrepreneurs Program, based in Clinton, to acknowledge female business owners who exhibit outstanding performance in four areas: market potential, innovation, community involvement and advocacy for women.
Martinez-Wardzinski is among the top 25 finalists, who were recognized at an event in Madison in December. Martinez-Wardzinski, along with other finalists, share their stories.
"For me to break through the glass ceiling -- that I did is extremely rare," says Martinez-Wardzinski, 45. "When I started I would go to meetings, and I would be the only woman, and people looked at me like I had three heads. Now I am starting to see a little bit more here and there but not to my level."
Being a woman is in part what prompted Martinez-Wardzinski, in 1997, to start Bravo Building Services, a company that provides housekeeping, mechanical maintenance, window cleaning, mail and administrative services to companies throughout the country. She was working in the building-service industry and didn't like how many of the male owners operated their businesses.
"I was frustrated working for only male owners," Martinez-Wardzinski says. "I thought there had to be a better way to treat employees and customers and be transparent in everything I did. If I brought employees in, and I trained them and promoted them from within and helped them grow, then we would be successful. I stuck to that, and it worked."
Today Martinez-Wardzinski's company has 3,100 employees that service everything from the Walmart headquarters in Arkansas to hospitals in Virginia. Along with its headquarters in Green Brook, Bravo operates branch offices in Arlington, Va., Charlotte, N.C., and New Castle, Del. Martinez-Wardzinski has plans to open another office somewhere in the western part of the country in the future. She lives in Franklin Township with her husband and her three daughters, ages 10, 9 and 7.
Martinez-Wardzinski says she has a "nothing-is-impossible" attitude that has taken her far.
"My experience is most people don't own their own business because they are scared to fail," she says. "If you can embrace that fear, and say, 'OK if I do fail I am still alive, I still have all these wonderful gifts, I can always make a new plan,' you will succeed."
Elizabeth Mascali and Dawn Sandomeno
When it comes to entertaining and business, Elizabeth Mascali has the same philosophy: Only do what works for you.
"Don't be bound by what you think you should do," Mascali says. "Don't feel like you have to follow a certain set of rules."
Mascali, 45, who owns Party Blueprints Inc., with her business partner Dawn Sandomeno, 46, certainly operates by her own set of rules.
Mascali and Sandomeno, both of the Basking Ridge section of Bernards, are party planners -- but not in the traditional sense. Instead of working to coordinate events for other people, the two provide party "blueprints" online, which makes it easy for people to organize, plan and execute perfect parties on their own.
They do this in conjunction with their blog, partybluprintsblog.com, which features party plans organized by theme, budget, season and more. All the elements needed for everything from a perfect wedding to a simple Friday night dinner are included on the site, with step-by-step recipes for food and cocktails and ideas for decorations, party favors and more.
"We tried to put everything in one stop so you don't have to search a million places for it," says Sandomeno, who also has a home in Belmar. "The idea was that we would do the research and legwork and party planning around a theme, so it would be not just a party but an experience."
Mascali and Sandomeno created their company in 2006, after becoming frustrated by the lack of one-stop-shopping party-planning information online. Both are parents -- Sandomeno is married with three kids ages 16, 13 and 11, and Mascali is married with two kids, ages 17 and 13 -- and they often host social events with their families.
Quickly they gained a large following on their blog and on social media, and in 2010, published their first book, "To Plan a Party." They have been featured on the "Today Show," "Good Day New York" and in Good Housekeeping magazine, on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in many other media outlets.
In recent years, Mascali and Sandomeno have joined forces with big-name companies like Sears, Kmart, Hershey's, Hunt's, ULTA Beauty, Vaseline, Microsoft, Lenox, Kraft, Canon and more to help them market their products and services. They also host live events focused on blogging, marketing and party planning.
Mascali says although she and Sandomeno did have some business experience in other industries prior to starting their company, most of what they have done has been self-taught.
"Every day we learn something new," Mascali says. "You really have to be open to that. You have to jump in with both feet, and just do it."
When Valerie Montecalvo entered the recycling business nearly 20 years ago, she had never heard of "going green."
"There was no buzzword. It was not popular," says Montecalvo, 51, who owns Bayshore Recycling Corp. in Woodbridge with her husband, Frank. "This is way before people were concerned about sustainability. It took a long time to convince people that it was worthwhile."
It also took Montecalvo some time to realize that recycling was the career for her. Originally, she and her husband ran a construction/contracting company.
In 1988, after working more than 10 years in the business, Montecalvo became a mother, and that change prompted her to question certain elements of the construction industry. She had her second child in 1990.
"I really started thinking that I should make the world a better place," says Montecalvo, who lives in Highlands. "Once, I had an occasion to go in with the trucks to a landfill, and I saw the mountains and mountains of garbage just thrown in there. I thought, 'Why doesn't anyone try and reclaim these things.' "
Over the next few years, Montecalvo and her husband slowly started introducing elements of recycling into their business, breaking down construction materials and reusing them on other projects. Continuing construction projects on the side, the Montecalvos created a recycling center in Keasbey, and soon other construction companies got involved, dropping off their used materials to the center and picking up new recycled materials to use for future building.
By 1995, Bayshore Recycling Corp. was the Montecalvos' main business focus. Today the company operates six separate recycling companies within its 52-acre complex, recycling asphalt, brick, block, contaminated soils, metals, construction and demolition debris, dredge material and even consumer electronics like computers and televisions.
Montecalvo is glad that today, recycling and the "green" movement are priority for many.
"It is wonderful to see so much interest now in re-purposing materials, reusing them and trying to achieve a zero-landfill agenda," Montecalvo says. "I am very passionate about what I do."
As a nurse at Raritan Bay Medical Center, Tracey Wolfman interacted with many elderly patients who could no longer completely care for themselves but didn't have a lot of options.
"A lot of my clientele was geriatric patients who were institutionalized what I thought was prematurely," says Wolfman, 47, who lives in Middetown with her husband.
Troubled by the lack of nursing home alternatives for the elderly in need, Wolfman left Raritan Bay Medical Center and opened We Care Adult Care, a daycare and support center for the elderly, those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers. Thirteen years later, the Red Bank-based business is flourishing, providing supervision, physical therapy, showers, beauty services, entertainment, financial and medical services and more to an average of 37 people a day.
"There were other adult daycare centers in the area, but they weren't really on the level that we wanted to incorporate," Wolfman says. "We try and cover all of the needs that they may have so a caregiver doesn't have to take them elsewhere."
Clients are picked up at their home by bus and brought to the center an average of three days a week, although some come up to five days, Wolfman says. A few live independently, but most live with their children and need some supervision and support during the day.
Participation in centers like We Care Adult Care delays nursing home placement for three to five years on average, Wolfman says.
We Care Adult Care also helps clients and caregivers secure funding for their services and other expenses and helps them find different levels of care that they might need down the road.
"The community doesn't really understand the concept of adult care or that they can receive funding for it," Wolfman says. "You don't have to be extremely poverty stricken. The income requirements for assistance are up to $50,000."
Services for the elderly will continue to be in high demand as baby boomers age. Wolfman plans to continue filling that need as long as she is able.
"It has just been wonderful to be able to change a lot of seniors and also their caregiver lives," Wolfman says." Just to see the seniors engaged and happy -- it is extremely rewarding."
A lot has changed since Debra Taeschler started her marketing company GraficaGroup 26 years ago.
The company grew from operating out of Taeschler's home basement in Chester with three employees to a professional building in Morristown with 32 employees.
Her client list expanded from just a few big-name clients (AT&T was her first) to companies in the private and public sectors, including PS&G, Horizon Blue Cross of New Jersey, Jackson Hewitt Tax, Summit Medical Group and the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
Her role as a working mom with a stay-at-home husband has become more accepted by her peers. "I was a pioneer then, now more women are doing it," says Taeschler, 60, whose two sons are now adults.
But it is the marketing industry that has changed the most, Taeschler says.
"When I started the agency, you had TV, print, radio, direct mail, that's it," Taeschler says. "Now you can't even count the number of ways to reach your customer."
GraficaGroup now offers website design, web application development, search engine optimization, mobile marketing, social media marketing, digital marketing and other modern marketing strategies, along with the traditional television, radio, and print newspaper services. The company is present on nearly every social media site including Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Tumblr, Pinterest and You Tube.
These changes have not daunted Taeschler, who says she is continuously learning new things to stay on top.
"It has been challenging going through 26 years and seeing such a change in the industry," she says. "I think you need to have a strong work ethnic more than anything else. My mother always taught me either you do it right, or you don't do it all. That has been the biggest contributor to my success."
(c)2013 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.)
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