What inspires you as a retail owner?Today I’m inspired by great classic feminine design produced by designers using natural fabrics like cotton and comfortable, washable textiles. Women’s Wear Daily was my Bible when I founded The Apple Tree in 1981, but today I’m bombarded with inspiration from designers, the internet, professional emails and more. For me, it’s about trying to continue to represent The Apple Tree point of view while serving my loyal guests.
What has your journey as a woman at the top of your field and the challenges you faced along the way been like?
Frankly, I never consider myself at the top of my field since I’m in a constant state of becoming. I am always searching for the next best line of clothing to bring to my ladies as the fashion industry evolves. I’m only as good as my last season.
I put myself through college working as a waitress and had many jobs throughout high school, college, and had many career interruptions with much uncertainty. There was no grand master plan, just a personal passion for pursuing style, fashion and doing my very best for my guests throughout my many careers.
Why did you get into the fashion industry?
Loving style and fashion since I was a young girl was influenced by my dear mother who was “Martha Stewart” way before her time. Since as young as I can remember, she taught me about “pretty things,” “being a lady” and instilled an appreciation for fine textiles and their intrinsic nature. My love for the industry and the feeling of femininity was in my DNA.
Despite the fact that women’s positions in the business world were limited in the early 70’s, I was lucky enough to be chosen as an intern in an executive training program in retail management after college graduation. I was also fortunate to be closely mentored by a business owner in the hospitality industry who gave me a “life experience MBA” by the age of 30.
In what ways have you learned to become adaptable and flexible?
Many times I had doubts about my professional and personal paths. I always had to take care of myself. Clarity and confidence came though some very hard life experiences. I had to work hard and stay close to the values I learned early in childhood along with my faith and family. Every life experience, from being the eldest of five children, to being put into positions of responsibility and leadership in elementary and high school, has taught me so much. I’ve always had a desire to be put in places of responsibility and became a babysitter at a young age. Shortly after, I became a volunteer at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and had the opportunity to work with disabled children.
While I was waitressing to put myself through college, a strong work ethic was birthed in me. I continued to work hard and grow as a person and professional. Founding a beauty business and being elected as the first woman treasurer and VP in the International Association Board of Directors in the beauty industry was a great privilege and taught me a great amount.
What is your advice to women seeking to rise in their profession?
Learn as many life skills as possible, not just in your chosen profession, but in discovering who you are; work hard, and take on bigger roles in life when they come to you. Walk through your fear. Fear isn’t an option when you want to live your best life. Know what you want in life to create your life of “purpose and meaning,” because as my fifth grade teacher stated, “Tempest Fugit” (“time flies”).
How would you define success?
Success for me has been about being authentic and realizing that life is “lived forward but learned backwards.” Lots of life lessons are learned through mistakes and heartache, but being resilient enough to keep moving in the direction of your greater good will propel you forward. It is important to remember to be your own best friend while offering your greatest self to your chosen career path with the utmost value for whom you serve.
“Bloom where you are planted.” Nature has a way of providing opportunity; you can be the best version of yourself as a woman no matter where you are in the world.
What are your biggest accomplishments?
When life threw me a big curve ball at age 50 with much loss and heartache, there were few female mentors. I promised myself that if I survived, I would pay it forward and help other women. My volunteerism in my community with founding ECHO, a resale shop of gently used fine women’s clothing that benefits Women’s Resources of Monroe County, was a way for me to reach out to abused women by raising money for legal fees. Volunteering to chair the Black & White Gala to benefit abused women and being elected president of the Board of Directors of Women’s Resources of Monroe County has continued to help me evolve as a champion and advocate for women.
In my boutique, our clients and customers are our guests, all of whom are real women, with real issues who desire to be their personal best on the outside as they continue to evolve through womanhood. From ages 20-99, I am honored to provide individual help and styling for each and every guest who walks through the door.
How do you develop yourself and continue to improve?
I’ve learned that beauty is more than looks. It is in the faith, character, intelligence, style and strength that make for a beautiful woman. Developing yourself personally and professionally is all about having something to give away to other women in your family, friend circles, community and workplace.
What are your “words to live by”