Celebrating your strengths: women in business network over lunch

Ohio Department of Development director Lydia Mihalik speaks during the fourth Women in Business luncheon at Stone Ridge Golf Club on Tuesday.

J D Pooley | Sentinel Tribune

More than 75 women came together on Tuesday to celebrate their strengths in running a business.

Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development, was the keynote speaker at the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce’s fourth Women in Business Luncheon.

Kathy Wilhelm from Hagemeyer Fine Photography and Sheri Gentry from Gentry Wellness LLC also offered advice on running a successful business.

“There are so many amazing women in our community,” said Mary Hinkelman, executive director of the chamber.

Mihalik spent four years as Mayor of Findlay before being appointed head of Ohio’s Department of Development by Gov. Mike DeWine.

“We’re all about supporting small businesses,” she said. “It’s what we do, it’s our bread and butter.”

Mihalik spoke about her journey, which began when she was studying Political Science at the University of Findlay. She was offered a job in this town right out of college.

“I had no real interest in it,” Mihalik said of government work. “I jumped in and did an internship at Community and Economic Development and really enjoyed it.”

She soon joined the Hancock County Regional Planning Commission and has received more than $18 million in county grants.

“I learned very quickly that collaboration…is very powerful and can do many things,” Mihalik said.

She was successful in her first bid for mayor and ran unopposed for a second term. In 2019, a year into that second term, DeWine approached her.

Mihalik said it’s important to have a local perspective in Columbus, and while she would love to be mayor, she thought she could make a difference in the state capital.

“What rewards me about my position has to do with the variety of things we do every day,” Mihalik said.

Her office provides advice, invests in degraded areas and infrastructure, and helps individuals pay their utility bills, she said.

More than 90% of Ohio businesses are small businesses and more than half that seek office support are women-owned small businesses.

Wilhelm and Gentry also shared how they found success with their small business.

Wilhelm and her sister Cheryl have been in their photography business for 35 years and have watched the industry evolve from film to digital.

Their business principle is that they make a decision that is best for the customer and for each other, Wilhelm said.

“It was never about me first,” she said.

Wilhelm explained the seven Ps that the sisters follow in their business.

Be passionate about your work every day because it’s contagious.

Connect with the people and care about the people in the company. Network inside and outside the industry.

Plan with a vision because it’s the North Star. Look at it constantly and live with it every day.

Process by always doing things the same way.

Persevere in looking to the future and don’t stop until the goal is ethically achieved.

Pivot and be willing to change and adapt, and pay attention to it.

Expect to be successful personally and financially by using the first six Ps, Wilhelm said.

Gentry said the path from point A to point B isn’t always a straight line.

“There’s the chaotic middle,” she said.

Gentry said she was responsible for family care from a young age, and a hospital stay planted the seed to help people.

She majored in college to become a physician assistant with the goal of showing patients that fear of medicine is nothing to worry about.

Over the years, Gentry has also been involved in women’s health and as a midwife. But at a certain point, she decided that all the knowledge she had acquired shouldn’t stop at her.

She began teaching at the University of Toledo and the University of Findlay, and it was her students who suggested her health could be better.

“As healthcare providers, we should live what we teach,” Gentry said.

That revelation led her to help others take their health to a place where they can achieve their dreams, she said.

Progress is about embracing the chaotic midpoints of life; Don’t always try to write a better past and always grow and be willing to learn.

The event was held in celebration of National Women’s Small Business Month.


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