Cathy Dean: Founder/Owner iheart cleaning

Cathy2Perhaps you’ve worked in a management position for several years. You’re good at it, you work hard, and you’re a valued employee. Then one day you wake up and say, “This cannot be my life”. What do you do next? Cathy Dean has been there. I asked her how she crafted her career. The highlights of her story follow.

In the beginning…

Cathy Dean has always enjoyed working with people as part of a team. At Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio, “I was in the band. I wouldn’t say that I was good at it, but I enjoyed the social aspects of being in the band”.

During high school, she assumed she might be a teacher, but when she enrolled at Wright State University, she decided she wanted to work in Human Resources (HR). “I love the interactions with people”.

Cathy planned to enter Wright State’s College of Business to focus on HR after finishing her general education requirements, but the College of Business had a GPA requirement. She shocked herself by falling short. “I also had a boyfriend. During that time of my life I don’t think I was as focused on school as I should’ve been”.

How did Cathy regroup?

Cathy took a semester off and then transferred to Sinclair Community College to study Business Management. While at Sinclair, she also worked almost full-time as a teller at Citizen’s Federal Bank. “I’ve always been super focused on working. I like to be busy, I can’t really have a lot of idle time”.

She grew to like working at the bank, recognized the connection to business and management, and thought she might make it her career path. “Those years were a time when I was all over the place, but I was still really determined to finish, couldn’t just walk away and not finish school”. She got her Associate’s degree and intended to continue working at Citizens Federal, but Fifth Third Bank acquired Citizens Federal and there were too many changes.

What did Cathy do? Did she stay?

Cathy moved on to National City Mortgage Company as a customer service representative. Although she loves people, “being on the phone wasn’t necessarily my dream job”. Nevertheless, she stayed in that job for a year and a half, because “It was good for me. I was so young and in this big world of business people”.

After she had her foot in the door at National City Mortgage, she transitioned to the real estate tax department and hit her stride. She became a “team lead” and then a manager.

What did she like about working at National City Mortgage?

Early in her career as a manager, senior management decided would be more profitable to do the bulk of the real estate tax processing internally rather than sending it out to vendors. Cathy joined a team of managers tasked with building the new system. “It was a huge project that was fun and challenging. We were creating a team of people within our department – finding the right people to fit the positions”. She discovered she enjoyed the project. “It was fun seeing something grow from such a little seedling to this huge unit of 100 people”.

NCM managers

Meeting to problem solve

Each manager was responsible for a different piece of the system, and they worked closely to coordinate functions and troubleshoot problems. “Because it was such a new team and everything was moving so quickly, the managers were in it together. It was fun to work together towards something and see it come to fruition”.

In the process, Cathy gained the “bulk of my true management experience”. She was able to exercise a lot of flexibility and autonomy to make decisions for her unit. Her personal challenge was learning the soft skills of being a manager and leader. She learned how to handle disciplinary circumstances, understand different work styles, and guide her staff.

During this time, Cathy also had a small business on the side, selling candles at festivals. Although the business didn’t last, she acquired an accountant and some experience as an entrepreneur.

It sounds like Cathy enjoyed the work at National City Mortgage. Did she stay?

Over the years, the team of managers fit the pieces of the new real estate tax processing system together until it worked like a well-oiled machine. Then the real estate bubble crashed in 2008. To lower coasts, National City Mortgage explored outsourcing the process, eventually sending the bulk of the work to India. “That was like a punch to the gut, because our amazing team that we created started to dwindle and people were let go – a big life lesson for me”.

Cathy spent three weeks in India training their replacements. When she returned, work didn’t feel the same and Cathy began to consider other options.

Cathy decided being a realtor “would be fun and interesting to help people purchase homes”. After getting her license on the weekends, she left National City Mortgage. That was a scary move, because she had been there for 11 years, “my whole young adult life”.

She became a realtor at the height of the Great Recession and lasted for three months. She had to make cold calls to recruit potential clients, and quickly realized, “I am not good at this and I don’t have any money”.

Her next job was in an Allstate insurance office. A coworker inspired Cathy to go back to school. “I’d built this great career for myself at the mortgage company, but I only had an Associate’s degree which wasn’t going to help me get some of the jobs I wanted.” Today you “have to have a bachelor’s degree like you have to have a high school diploma”.

Cathy took out student loans and enrolled at Indiana Wesleyan online to pursue HR management. Working full-time at the insurance agency and going to school was hard. “I don’t even remember those points of my life”.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in two years, Cathy started looking for a job in HR, but immediately ran into roadblocks. Employers thought she had too much management experience for an entry-level job, but, since she lacked HR experience, they didn’t think she fit their HR jobs.

Assurant Springfield OH
Assurant Springfield, OH

Needing to earn money,  Cathy found a job at Assurant Specialty Property in Springfield, Ohio, working with the mortgage, tax, and insurance industries for four years.

Cathy worked for over 20 years in the financial services sector. Why did she leave to start a cleaning business?

In 2015, Cathy turned 40 and said, “This cannot be my life”. She was “tired of being under the finger of someone else with very minimal control”.

Time to start cleaning!

Fed up with corporate constraints, Cathy told her husband, “I’m just going to clean”. She thought she could “make decent money at a good physical job, build my own hours and be my own boss.”

What steps did Cathy take to start iheart cleaning?

Cathy thought she would clean on her own, until she met her good friend, Mandy, for coffee to talk and get some advice. Unexpectedly, Mandy offered to help. Cathy thought, “Cool, that seemed better!”

Cathy loved having Mandy to discuss the business with, because figuring out “how to even clean seemed way more complicated than I actually realized.” Their first steps included:

  • Building pricing – at first they underpriced everything
  • Developing a systematic approach to attack jobs
  • Obtaining general liability insurance
  • Becoming bonded
  • Figuring out marketing

In the beginning, Cathy and Mandy had no clue how to price a job or attack it, so they learned by trial and error. Their first customer told them she was a “bit of a hoarder and hadn’t cleaned in a while”. They gave her an estimate based on the time they thought the job would take, but quickly discovered they had seriously underestimated. It took three of them two and a half days to clean the kitchen, one bedroom and a bathroom. “Now we know not to give an estimate on the time a job will take”.

BNI2Soon after launching her business, Cathy accepted her accountant’s invitation to join a chapter of BNIBNI is a worldwide business-networking group of individuals from many different professions, which meets weekly, to discuss business strategies and challenges, and share advice.

When she was just working from home, Cathy didn’t know how to get the word out. Once she announced the launch of iheart cleaning to her BNI group, however, the floodgates opened and business skyrocketed. “Everybody’s a friend of a friend of a friend.”

Cathy is glad Mandy has been with her from the start. “Our strengths really balance each other. You have to be educated. I have Corian countertops, but there’s granite and marble and all of these different stones and all of these different types of care”.  Mandy taught her about the different types of surfaces, so they can clean without causing damage.

stove b4 and after
Before and after

Other resources Cathy’s used:

  • “We have a flooring person in our BNI group and he has really educated me. Now I can look at a floor and say, ‘oh, that’s marble’”
  • Blogs and podcasts about cleaning techniques and business practices
  • Facebook group focused on cleaning; “I can see mistakes that people make across the country and I know I’m not alone”
Toilet b4 and after
Before and After

Cathy’s dream is “to have people in place so we can focus on things that we need to do to grow the business”. She believes a social media presence is important and would love to write a blog on cleaning and organizing.

Currently Cathy and Mandy “spend 24/7 wading through all of the logistics of having a business, doing the work and hiring people”. Although the business is much bigger than Cathy’s original idea, needing six of them to do the cleaning, she says, “It’s fun to watch it grow”.

Cathy’s observations:

  • Join a networking group so you can meet people who can be your sales force
  • Do your research
  • Find what works best for you; sometimes your don’t know until you make a mistake
  • Be transparent with your customers; tell them immediately about any issue before they bring it to your attention
  • Be resourceful in finding good employees; that’s the most challenging part of the business.


Mike Bisig: Founder/owner of Mike’s Bike Park, musician and educator

MikeWhat if the activities you love don’t seem to fit into a coherent career path? Mike Bisig loves jumping his bike over hills and speeding around curves. But he loves music even more. He has adapted his career path, weaving music and cycling into his life. I asked Mike how he crafted his career. The highlights of his story follow.

In the beginning…

Since his childhood in Wilmington, Ohio, music has been Mike Bisig’s passion; both playing music and helping others learn how to play. His instrument of choice is the saxophone, although he’s an expert in most woodwinds, and also plays guitar. He reached such a high level of proficiency on the saxophone in high school that he was able to earn money by giving lessons.

His other passion emerged later. As a kid, Mike rode his BMX bikeKids on BMX everywhere with his friends, but didn’t become serious about cycling until after college. He had no idea it would lead to Mike’s Bike Park. He laughed when he said his “high school counselor would not have picked this as a career path”.

At Wright State University, Mike embraced his passion for teaching music by majoring in music education and used his love of performing to forge long-term friendships.

Mike graduated from WSU with a degree in music education. What was next?

Mike wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, so he taught private lessons to approximately 40 students and worked at Absolute Music in Fairborn. There he quickly realized that he enjoyed sales.

Mike believes that “life is a series of connections you make with people”. At Absolute Music, he got to know the regular customers, including the band director for Greenon Local School District. That acquaintance led to a part-time job with the Greenon high school band and then a full-time position teaching music.

While working with the Greenon band, he continued to teach private lessons, as well as completed a Master’s degree in music education.

After several years, Mike reached a decision point: whether to settle down at Greenon or explore his options. He decided to leave the teaching field entirely and move to join a college friend in Honolulu for a year.

Greenon, Ohio to Hawaii is a huge leap! What did Mike do there?

Mike is a big believer in planning, so he started saving his money a year before he walked away from the Greenon job.

Waikik Beach Honolulu, Hawaii

Mike rapidly discovered he didn’t want a car, because parking in Honolulu is “insane”. His friends biked everywhere, so Mike did, too. At first traveling by bike was terrible, because “Hawaii is uphill all the time”. He was young, however, so it didn’t take long before he adapted.

Since some of the most beautiful areas in Hawaii aren’t accessible by car, so Mike quickly got hooked on mountain biking. He discovered:

  • Cycling enthusiasts are super nice regardless of skill level
  • Biking’s physical demands are fun
  • Spectacular scenery is just a ride away

Honolulu is an expensive place, however, so Mike quickly ran through his money. The local bike shop, Island Triathlon & Bike, needed a salesman, so Mike got a job.

Island Triathlon & Bike used professional cyclists as salesmen; Mike was their first casual rider. The pros, focused on performance, related best to other pros, whereas Mike reached out to everyone. In the process, he discovered he was good at selling bikes and equipment to the casual rider. Mike stayed, became the manager of the shop, and learned more about sales in the process.

Mike was having a great time in Hawaii. Did he stay longer than a year?

Mike stayed true to his plan and left Hawaii at the end of that year. Back in Ohio, he traveled for a year between Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati, working with secondary school bands. He hated all that driving.

But once again, Mike’s connections paid off. A friend in Hawaii called to ask him to come back to Hawaii to run it a new high-end bike shop, Momentum Multisport.

Diamondhead 1
Diamond Head, Oahu Island, Hawii

Mike returned to Hawaii. Since Mike was involved in all the promotional activities, he got a hands-on education in PR basics. But he didn’t have to learn how to how to make promotions lively. From his years of playing music, he knew that innately.

Mike continued to love mountain biking,

Triathlete in training

but he also got interested in road biking. Momentum Sports provided training and support for triathlon cyclists. As the shop’s representative, Mike trained groups of triathletes, and led group rides. His “love of the bike grew and grew”.

Hawaii was wonderful, but family issues tugged at Mike. He was traveling back to Ohio every six or seven weeks, and, after a year, he decided to move back to Ohio.

When he returned to Ohio, did Mike chose teaching again or stay with bike sales?

Mike returned to his old job at Absolute Music, but this time he traveled to various school districts to serve their music needs. In that capacity, he reconnected with an old friend in the Beavercreek City School system. Since Mike had his Masters degree and was up-to-date with his licensure, he could easily to return to education. Beavercreek had a huge band program with a ready-made studio for teaching lessons, and Mike started teaching lessons.

After a year, he gained a teaching position in the band program, which led to his current position as the Assistant Director of Bands.

Mike said working with a high school band is a special type of teaching. Managing a band is like “running Fortune 500 Company on a teacher’s pay and with not a lot of resources”. The job requires skills in budgeting, short- and long-range planning, communication, and personnel management, as well as teaching. And it demands a lot of time.

Mike said playing music is always his first love. He said he’d be okay of he broke his leg, but would be devastated if he broke a finger. It’s so important that he also has found time to play in four local bands:

Now that Mike’s involved with music again, what happened to cycling?

Bike trail2
Mountain biking in Ohio

Despite the lack of mountains, there’s plenty of off-road biking in Ohio, but the weather makes trail riding tough. After it rains, mountain bikers have to stay off the trails for at least two days so they don’t tear it up. Unlike Hawaii, it rains frequently in Ohio. Mike noted that his fellow cyclists often talked about the thousands of riders in Dayton area who need an indoor park.

Finally about two years ago, Mike had heard enough. “I’m just going to be the guy. I’m not a pro rider, but I have sales experience, understand how to manage money, understand how to manage the business, and can bridge the gaps between all the riders who come in to use the facility”.

Mike envisioned Mike’s Bike Park, an indoor bike park with jumps, ramps and curves to challenge the most skilled mountain bikers and BMX riders while entertaining more casual riders.

Dayton’s never had an indoor bike park before. How does a music teacher make a bike park happen here?

Developing Mike’s Bike Park has been a challenge. Mike has devoted hours to researching, developing a business plan, and designing the experience.

Much of Mike’s research has included talking to others more experienced in the business. He traveled frequently to existing indoor bike parks, such as:

In addition, the Entrepreneurs Center in Dayton reviewed his business plan.

Once Mike had his business plan, his next steps were:

  • Find an appropriate building that wouldn’t bust his budget
    • Purchased an empty 70,000 sq. ft. factory building at 1300 E. First Street in Dayton
  • Secure funding
    • Convinced a bank to approve a loan by asking interested cyclists for money and initiating a Gofundme campaign
  • Obtain all the necessary permits from the City of Dayton
    • Passed a variety of soil and environmental tests and secured the necessary zoning variance from the City of Dayton despite being “a square peg, trying to fit in a round hole”
  • Renovate the building to make it useable

Mike’s next challenge: locate the right person to build the bike ramps, so they would be durable and exciting. Bryan Swinford, Links and Kinks Bike in Fairborn, helped Mike find Craig Billingsley, an international ramp builder based in Columbus. Check out photos and videos of Craig’s work.

Craig has technical ramp building skill, and the vision to design ramp’s function and place in the flow.

Craig at work on the jumps

Mike said, “Every rider who has tested the park has been blown away by how rideable it is and how fun it is, regardless of the rider’s level. The complete novice doesn’t notice why the angles of the ramps work well, but pro riders can tell when and why the angles work”.

Farco truck
One of the many truckloads of wood needed to build the features of Mike’s Bike Park

Mike wants the park to be for everyone, regardless of skill level. All riders will be required to wear a helmet, ride with the flow of traffic and obey the rules. Cameras posted throughout will provide constant monitoring, viewable on the big screen TVs in the lounge. All the staff members will have to be certified in CPR, know First Aid, and fully understand the park rules and concept.

Currently mountain bikers ask when they can buy a pass, and kids on BMX bikes wonder, “When can I have a place to ride where I won’t get in trouble?” The answer is: very soon.

Mike’s Observations:

  • Start planning as early as you can; “the best time to start planning is yesterday and the second best time is today”
  • Flexibility is important; “things are going to go your way and things are going to not go your way”
  • Don’t burn any bridges; “you meet people at one stage and then they come back into your life to help you”
  • Plan for the unknown; Mike included an “I don’t know what” fund in his budget
  • Planning is vital; Mike tells his kids “don’t be a 70% person” who puts 70% in and doesn’t know how to finish and fizzles out


Kathy Anderson: Owner, My Pilates Studio

-12Is your Zumba class the best part of your day? Do you daydream about leaving your job and working for yourself? Do you pay close attention to the latest developments in physical fitness?

Kathy Anderson merged her love of dance and exercise, her business background, and her desire to be her own boss to found My Pilates Studio. I asked Kathy how she crafted her career. The highlights of her story follow.

How did Kathy wend her way from high school dancer to successful business owner?

Kathy was groomed to be a perfectionist from the day she was born. The third of four children, Kathy was conceived to bring her family out of grieving after one of her older sisters died of polio. She was expected to be perfect. Kathy tried hard to be the best at everything she did, but she felt like nothing she ever did was good enough. Her solution was always to work harder. Her outlet was dance, ballet and jazz, and she relished performing with her high school drill team.

After high school, she spent a few years in New York City modeling, but she had always dreamed of becoming a Kilgore Rangerette. So after a few years in New York, she enrolled at Kilgore College in Texas and became a Rangerette, a precision dance team. The Rangerettes, known for their high kicks (they have to hit their hats) and jump splits, travel across the United States and internationally. She told me her years with the Rangerettes were “wonderful”.

Two years passes quickly. What did Kathy do after she graduated?

After graduating from Kilgore, Kathy got a job in retail, selling clothing. Her real interest was working with dance and drill teams and she fell into a pattern of quitting whatever job she had to spend the summer teaching at dance camps. Her parents told her she wasn’t on a viable career path and pushed her to get a more stable job. “You should be a teacher”, they said.

Shrugging off that suggestion, Kathy became an account executive for a cosmetic company and then, the first female account executive for WING radio. Those jobs didn’t last long, however, because Kathy kept running headlong into a problem – her own self-confessed issue with authority. She said she frequently feels like she knows better and has better ideas, which makes her impatient with employers. “I have never been a good employee”, she admitted.

How did Kathy handle her dislike of working for others?

Brainstorming with a friend, Kathy developed the idea to create a clearinghouse for people looking for rental property. She opened American Homeowners and Renters Association with a database of rental properties similar to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), and a research department that located unoccupied units. Users could enter the type of rental housing they were looking for, the price range, and the area, and get a printout of available options. Kathy offered the services free to landlords. Her clients were families, corporations, and appraisers seeking rental housing for rent or for sale.

During the seven years Kathy managed American Homeowners and Renters Association, she got her real estate license and began selling houses for Heritage Realtors. In the beginning, Heritage wanted her to bring the clearinghouse with her, because it was a great feeder for finding first-time homebuyers. Kathy decided to sell the business instead. She kept all the information about her clients, however, so she could explore if they were interested in buying instead of renting. That approach worked; in her first month, she sold 14 houses.

Kathy and her husband met when they were both with Heritage. Her husband eventually left Heritage to start his own realty company. Kathy left, too, ran his business and worked with homebuyers until their first child was born. At that point, Kathy cut back so she wouldn’t have to work evenings. She continued to manage the business and assumed the task of training new buyer agents.

Kathy was successful in real estate. How did Pilates enter the picture?

When Kathy stopped teaching summer dance camps, she no longer had the time for or access to dance programs, and she stopped dancing. She still wanted to exercise, however. She did aerobics and weight lifting, but she hated weight lifting. Eventually she got hurt lifting weights that were too heavy. Thinking it would help to rehabilitate her injury, she took a Pilates class and loved it.

Pilates class on the Reformers at My Pilates Studio

Kathy explained that Pilates emphasizes alignment, breathing, concentration and developing a strong core – the muscles of the abdomen, low back, and hips. The choreographed exercises move the muscles concentrically and eccentrically, improving strength and flexibility. Although Pilates emphasizes the muscles of the core, the program works the whole body, stabilizing the action of the joints overall. Pilates can be done on an exercise mat or using specific equipment such as the Reformer (which sounds scary, but is actually a lot of fun), Chair or Barrel.

Kathy wasn’t content just to show up at a Pilates class; to satisfy her need for perfection, she had to understand the principles and be the best student. To feed that drive, she began more intensive Pilates training. The more she did Pilates, the more she loved it. As she learned the principles, understood their effect on the body, and mastered the movements, she decided she wanted to become a Pilates teacher. To do that, she needed to get certified, which meant taking hundreds of hours of theoretical and practical, hands-on training.

In order to get the best training, Kathy researched numerous programs, finally settling on Stott Pilates. Stott appealed to her, because the program is based on research in sports medicine, physical therapy and exercise science. According to Kathy, it is the most rigorous Pilates certification program – the “Harvard of certification”.

Did anything change when Kathy shifted her focus to Pilates?

Kathy had been running her husband’s real estate business for 15 years. Shifting her focus to Pilates was a big challenge, because her husband didn’t like the change. Kathy knew, however, that Pilates was important piece of her puzzle; it fit. Ultimately, she decided that she wanted to own a Pilates studio. Her mother agreed. “You have got to stop chasing your dreams and start living them.”

Grudgingly, her husband went along with the plan at first. Rather than rent a space, they decided to build the best studio possible. They found a piece of ground, worked with an architect and built the studio.


My Pilates Studio, 8100 Miller Farm Lane, Dayton, OH 45458

Isn’t there more to opening a Pilates studio than just the building?

Wherever Kathy went, she took Pilates classes and talked to the studio owners, instructors and receptionists, observing and asking about the best ways to manage clients and instructors. By the time Kathy was developing her own studio, she had a good idea of what she wanted and how it should look.

Equipment at My Pilates Studio

Prior to opening My Pilates Studio, she taught in another studio and worked with a number of instructors there. In addition, when she was taking classes for her certification, she met more Pilates practitioners, further building her Pilates network. One of her biggest concerns about opening her place was attracting qualified instructors, but her contacts in her network enabled her to find qualified instructors.

Based on her research, Kathy set high standards for her studio. She wanted My Pilates Studio to have the same customer service approach as the Ritz Carlton, the attitude of “It’s my pleasure”. With that goal in mind, Kathy directed the entire client experience from the greeting by the receptionist, to the workout with an instructor, and the cleanliness of the facilities.

To ensure a good client experience, she also established requirements for her teachers. They must

  • Become trained in Stott Pilates, including theoretical coursework, hands-on coursework, class observations, and a final exam
  • Understand the principles and purpose of Pilates
  • Apprentice with an experienced instructor
  • Complete six hours of continuing education each year
  • Provide their own liability insurance in addition to the liability insurance that Kathy maintains for the business
Pilates class on the Reformers at My Pilates Studio

Did Kathy have any surprises when she opened My Pilates Studio? What has she learned?

Kathy said she discovered that “people are people are people”, with the same problems and issues regardless of the business. She has found, however, that the customer’s goal impacts the nature of the interaction. People engaged in buying or selling real estate are much more anxious about money and the transaction, which colors their outlook. As Kathy said, “People are at a Pilates studio because they want to work out, feel better and, generally speaking, they’re happy to be there.”

To Kathy’s surprise, the biggest challenge is not dealing with the clients, but managing the business and the personnel. Kathy has a number of instructors, which necessitates supervising the quality of their teaching, care of the equipment, and status of continuing education credits. Her instructors tease her about being slightly OCD, but she realizes that attention to detail is crucial, because the clients have other choices.

In addition, Kathy has learned that being an entrepreneur often means working seven days a week. “You go home and take the business with you.” From a financial perspective, running My Pilates Studio doesn’t provide Kathy the same financial stability as working in real estate. She said, “It’s a challenge, because it’s a low profit business”, exacerbated by the fact that her building makes the overhead higher than the typical Pilates studio. Nonetheless, she said, “But I love what I’m doing.”

Many Pilates studios require their instructors to do their own marketing to recruit clients. Kathy has taken on that task, promoting the business through the My Pilates Studio website, social media, such as the My Pilates Studio Facebook page, ads in the local Pennysaver, donations of coupons to charitable silent auctions, and health fairs. She noted that word of mouth is actually the most productive method.

Pilates plank on the Reformer at My Pilates Studio

Kathy’s observations

  • Recognize your personality type; operating as an entrepreneur is “way more work, but I like it that way”
  • Ask questions everywhere you go and research, research, research
  • Meet challenges by asking, “How can I?” instead of saying, “I can’t”
  • Remember “for the first 40 years of your life, you get the body you were born with; for the next 40 years, you get the body you deserve”
  • Pay attention to the four building blocks of a healthy lifestyle:
    • Exercise – Strengthening, Flexibility and Cardio (aerobic)
    • Nutrition
    • Sleep
    • Mental outlook
  • Find a fitness activity you enjoy; “exercise is only as good as you showing up”

Bill Evans: Baker and House of Bread Executive Director

Bill Evans 2

Do you flourish in the kitchen – mixing dough, baking cookies, and decorating cakes? Have you wondered if you could do it for a career? Bill Evans has been feeding people his entire career, first as an owner/baker and then as executive director of the House of Bread. I asked Bill how he crafted his career. The highlights of his story follow.

Dough rollerMy conversation with Bill Evans started at 7:00am at Evans Bakery in Dayton four days before St. Patrick’s Day. Bill and his daughter, Jennifer, were hard at work. The dough rolling machine rumbled, oven timers rang, and the wide cookie dough lifter clacked against the cutting table. Completely dressed in bakers white, Bill talked while he prepared the cut out shamrock cookies.

How did Bill go from a schoolboy in Bordentown, New Jersey to a bakery owner in Dayton, Ohio?

When Bill was growing up in Bordentown, New Jersey, his father was a baker and his older brother was a baker, but he wanted nothing to do with baking. He made his first acquaintance  with the business as a boy. He decided that, unlike his brothers and sisters, he wanted to go to the Catholic high school. His father said, “Well son, that’s what I want you to do, too, so you better get you a job.” So Bill cut grass and swept the floor in the bakery where his dad was chief baker.

When Bill graduated from high school, he wanted to go to college. His father said, “Well, I want that, too, son. You better get you a job.” Bill knew he couldn’t mow enough grass to pay college tuition, so he looked around. The employment options in Bordentown were limited, however. Bill knew he didn’t want to work in the Ocean Spray factory, so he applied for a job at the Royal Bakery in Trenton, New Jersey.

Management at the bakery assumed that Bill had been baking all his life and hired him. Bill’s father gave him a crash course in baking and Bill went to work. It didn’t take long for the folks at Royal Bakery to realize that Bill was a complete rookie. But he was smart and trainable, so they kept him.

Did Bill ever go to college?

Once Bill had earned enough money to pay the tuition, he quit his job and enrolled at Miami University. Unfortunately, he ran out of money after the first year and returned to Bordentown. After another year working at the Royal Bakery, Bill boarded a bus for the University of Dayton, where he knew a lot of kids from New Jersey.

Bill had never been to Dayton before and knew nothing about the city, but he knew his first task was to find a job. He got off the bus on Brown Street outside the South Park Bakery, which had a “Help Wanted” sign posted in the window. He set his suitcase down on the ground and walked in to ask for a job.

The old baker groused about hiring him, but finally agreed to test Bill for a week. The old guy grumbled at him all week, but at the end of the day on Friday, he said, “See you tomorrow”. So Bill knew he had a job. Bill’s Monday – Friday hours were 2:30am – 6:00am, which gave him time for classes the rest of the day. Saturday was an eight-hour day, and Bill looked forward to resting on Sunday. But when he clocked out that first Saturday, the old baker said, “See you tomorrow, kid.” Bill swallowed hard, knowing that meant he had no days off, but he needed the money. So he stayed.

Bill worked those hours seven days a week and went to classes until his senior year. Then he asked the old baker for a nickel raise. Without hesitation, the old guy said, “Kid, good luck to you. There’s the door.”

Bill was majoring in Social Work, so he used his new free time to get an internship with Juvenile Court. He graduated from the University of Dayton with a strong foundation in social work, insight into the juvenile justice system, hard-earned experience in the bakery business, and no idea of what came next.

So Bill got a college degree. Then what?

When Bill’s internship boss asked him what he was going to do after graduation, Bill said he was going to take the first job he could find anywhere in the world. In response, his boss offered him a full-time job in the Juvenile Court. So he stayed right in Dayton. He graduated on a Saturday and went to work the following Monday

What propelled Bill back into the bakery business?

Bill got married and rapidly discovered there was no money in social work. So he worked at another bakery on the side and kept his ears open for opportunities. In 1969 after eighteen months in Juvenile Court, Bill heard that the Schattschneiders were ready to retire and wanted to sell their bakery. Bill didn’t know them, but he went over to talk to them. As he said, “they kind of liked each other”. The Schattschneiders wanted $5,000 for the down payment, but Bill didn’t have that kind of money. Fortunately, he and his wife, Rosemary, were able to borrow it from her parents.

Bill signed the contract for the purchase of the bakery from the Schattschneiders on a Friday and he opened Evans Bakery the following Monday morning. When I asked him how he learned to manage a bakery, he shrugged, “I kind of have that baking gene, and I never found it to be much of a mystery.”

Evans Bakery, 700 Troy Street, Dayton, Ohio

Is the bakery business really that simple?

I watched Bill and his daughter, Jennifer, quickly pushing the brick of dough through the rolling machine, cutting the cookies, and spreading them out on the deep layer of green sugar that coated the cookie sheets. I concluded running a bakery may not be a mystery, but it’s demanding work. And like any business, the owner must plan ahead, track money and details and manage staff.

Did Bill head for the links when retirement beckoned?

After running the bakery for 35 years – from 1969 to 2004 – Bill was ready to sell the bakery and retire. He emerged from retirement almost immediately, however. The Board of Trustees of the House of Bread knew him through his volunteer work at St. Vincent DePaul Dayton. The House of Bread Executive Director was retiring, so the Board asked Bill to fill the position. Happy to have a new challenge, Bill agreed, despite the fact that he had no experience running a nonprofit organization. House of Bread, 9 Orth Avenue, Dayton, Ohio, provides a hot, nutritious lunch to anyone in need.

Bill expected to spend a month working with the retiring Executive Director, Jean Taylor to learn on the job. They met at Meadowbrook Country Club to plan, or so Bill thought. On arriving, Jean directed Bill to move five giant boxes from her car to his. Then, after four hours of instruction, she left. “The shortest training on record!”

How did Bill translate his bakery skills to being an Executive Director?

Bill applied his planning skills honed by running the bakery. Before Bill started at the House of Bread, the Board of Trustees had raised $100,000 as seed money to build a new facility. Unforeseen engineering work required to stabilize the ground, however, quickly ate that fund. So Bill started with no money to fund construction. Working with the Board, Bill found a way to complete the $549,000 project. When Bill left the House of Bread in 2014, their debt was paid down and now the organization is completely debt-free.

Raising the money to operate a small nonprofit is generally the job of the Executive Director. Bill was used to selling baked goods for profit, so running a business by asking for money it was new. Generally nonprofits cover expenses by raising money in two ways – asking for donations and writing grants. Although he wrote some successful grants, Bill said he didn’t like writing them. He was, however, “really really good at asking people for money” even though he didn’t enjoy that, either. His persistence and thick skin made it work. If the person gave Bill money, he would say, “I love you!” If they turned him down, he would say, “I love you.”

Given that Bill had never run a nonprofit before, I asked if anyone gave him good advice. He immediately mentioned Peter Benkendorf and The Collaboratory. Bill was always curious to learn what others were doing and The Collaboratory was a good source of information.

Retirement beckoned again. But did Bill really retire?

Bill said he had a good ten-year run at the House of Bread. As much as he liked doing it, he said, “Sometimes there just comes a time. It’s very exhausting to minister to the poor, the needy and the hungry.” So he stepped away.

Did Bill settle into a rocking chair this time?

Seven years after Bill sold the bakery, it was available again. Fed up with their jobs in Detroit, Bill’s daughter, Jennifer, and her partner, Matthew Tepper, decided to return to Dayton and reopen the bakery. On December 17, 2012, they opened Evans Bakery as a full-service bakery, Monday through Saturday. So Bill came out of retirement to work for Jennifer on a part-time basis.Racks and counter

As Bill sprinkled flour and then ran a brick of cookie dough backwards and forwards through the rolling machine, he told me he enjoys the work. Then he lifted the flattened dough and said, “But this is the last time I come out of retirement!”

Bill’s observations…

  • Master basic math – bakers must be able to multiply beyond 10 x 10, figure percentages, and make change easily and rapidly
  • Ask for help, regardless of whether you’re looking for a job, raising money or seeking business advice
  • Be curious about what other people are doing to succeed
Bakery retail
Open Monday – Saturday, 6am – 3pm

Dan Foley, Montgomery County Commissioner (Ohio)

Commissioner Dan Foley

Are you fascinated by the news? Perhaps you enjoy discussing local, state, national and international affairs. Maybe you’ve considered running for elected office, but wonder how to get started.

Dan Foley used to stand in your shoes, but now he’s an experienced public official. He’s been elected twice as Montgomery County Clerk of Courts and three times to be a Montgomery County Commissioner. His current term expires in 2019. I asked Dan how he crafted his career. The highlights of his story follow. If you want to read more, go to the long version.

How did Dan get his start?

Dan learned about public service early. His father, Patrick J. Foley, was a Trustee of Madison Township, now Trotwood, Ohio, and then a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge. When Dan was little, he helped him with elections, whether he wanted to or not.

In classes at Bowling Green State University, Dan recognized his interest in public policy. As the president of the campus Democrats during his senior year, he started building relationships around Ohio.

When Dan returned to Dayton, Ohio, after graduation, he wasn’t 100% sure of his path. He spent a year as a VISTA volunteer in a MetroParks community garden program, Grow with Your Neighbors. Through that program, he met U.S. Representative Tony Hall and became his staff assistant in the Dayton office. Working for Congressman Hall was like getting a Ph.D. in government. He met a lot of people, learned about constituents’ problems, and soaked up stories about what was happening in Congress.

After a stint as the head of Operation Food Share, a nonprofit partnership to feed the hungry, Dan knew that he needed a bigger paycheck so he could start a family.

Dayton, Ohio

How did Dan feed his growing family?

Dan had built a lot of relationships in the Dayton area, so he let people know he was looking for a job. A friend referred him to an opening as the Montgomery County Assistant County Treasurer. Dan landed the job and spent the next six years in that position.

What happened when Dan got itchy for a new challenge?

After six years as the Assistant County Treasurer, Dan tried to get elected to the Ohio legislature, but he didn’t make it through the Democratic Party process.

Then he got creative. Embracing his Irish heritage, Dan and his wife decided to explore living in Ireland. Knowing he needed a job first, Dan hired a head hunter and flew to Ireland for interviews.

As Dan was about to board the plane, Mark Owens, the Democratic Party chair, called to ask if he’d be interested in running for the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts. Dan said, “I’m about to get on a plane to Ireland and if I get a job there, no. But if I don’t get a job, yes.” Finding a job in Ireland as a noncitizen was virtually impossible, so Dan came home and entered his first race for Montgomery County Clerk of Courts.

Did he win?

Dan’s his years of cultivating relationships and his knowledge of Montgomery County processes helped to put him across the finish line. He was first elected as the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts in 2000 and reelected in 2004.

What does the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts do anyway?

The Montgomery County Clerk of Courts is a multi-faceted organization composed of 120+ employees serving

  • Common Pleas Court, General Division
  • Domestic Relations Court
  • County Municipal Courts
  • Second District Court of Appeals
  • Auto Title Division
Dayton – Montgomery County Courts Building

What did Dan do during his six years as the Clerk of Courts?

Dan accomplished several things:

  • Managed a system of 120+ employees
  • Ensured the administration of the criminal justice system across Montgomery County
  • Spearheaded development of JusticeWeb

 What’s important about JusticeWeb?

JusticeWeb is a data system, which makes court and arrest information from area courts available to all levels of the justice system. Dan started working with ten court systems in Montgomery County. Since then JusticeWeb has grown into a regional data system used by 12 Ohio counties, enabling police and probation officers, judges, jail officials, and Children Services staff members to use real-time information about offenders instead of spending hours on the phone. Now they can easily

  • Manage the County’s jail population
  • Learn if a foster parent is a risk to their foster children
  • Determine if a domestic violence offender is escalating abuse

Creating JusticeWeb was a major feat. Handling turf conscious court systems, and managing the integration of separate computer systems required an ability to bring people together to solve hard issues. Dan approached the project with curiosity, asking how participants might use all the data and how best to bring it together. Starting with curiosity developed buy-in and lots of listening cemented it.

“Foley won the respect of myriad people in the trenches who credit him with taking on a devilish project that required not just turf-conscious people, but also computer systems, to talk to each other. They saw stick-to-it energy and passion.” (Dayton Daily News, November 3, 2006)

Sounds like Dan turned the backwater Clerk of Courts job into a dynamic position. What else was he doing?

At the same time, Dan began working on his Masters degree in race relations at Wright State University. Taking one class at a time, he completed it after eight years. Dan highlighted the impact of the material, which exposed him to African-American history and experience.

After six years, Dan was ready to face new challenges. What was next?

In 2006 Dan ran for County Commissioner. He wanted to focus on job creation, and he believed he brought important strengths to the position – his abilities to

  • Bring people together to solve problems as demonstrated by his leadership in developing JusticeWeb
  • Work effectively with the Montgomery County budget

Running for County Commissioner required raising money. “Not fun, but necessary.” He emphasized that it takes discipline. “You have to sit down and literally keep dialing. And keep dialing.” And successful fundraising requires a network of relationships. “The more relationships you build over time, the more people have a stake in supporting your work – particularly if those relationships were formed around shared beliefs, attitudes and projects that helped the community.”

Dan won that election, as well as subsequent elections in 2010 and 2014.

What did Dan do as a County Commissioner?

When Dan began his first term, the economy was going downhill. First NCR moved its headquarters to Atlanta, then the full impact of the Great Recession hit. Dayton lost major manufacturers like General Motors and Delphi. Unemployment climbed and the rate of housing foreclosures skyrocketed. Dan felt like he was “bringing in the bad weather”.

Dan and his fellow Commissioners, Debbie Lieberman and Judy Dodge, had to make tough decisions to downsize County government, finding 20 different ways to say “no”.

Did he do anything beside say “no”?

Among the many issues that Dan has dealt with as a Commissioner, economic development has always been on his mind. When he first took office, he knew that Montgomery County needed to “figure out a way to have more eggs in more baskets” so the economy wouldn’t rely so heavily on a few employers. After the County identified four major strategies for economic development, Dan went to work.

Dan collaborated with a team from the County, the City of Dayton, the State of Ohio, Clayton and Brookville, to persuade Caterpillar Logistics and Payless Shoe Source to locate distribution centers in the Dayton area. Dan enjoyed working with the group to present the proposals and then bring them into reality.

Caterpillar 2
Caterpillar Logistics, Clayton, Ohio

Dan is excited about the collaboration between Montgomery County, the City of Dayton, the Dayton Development Coalition, and the Municipality of Haifa, Israel, which launched the Dayton Region-Israel Trade Alliance (DRITA) office to promote business development activities between Israeli and Dayton area technology-based companies and organizations. Dan said it is beginning to show results as companies like Projects Unlimited, Woolpert, and Woosh Water LLC start projects.

Dan is also gratified to see recent economic development initiatives that haven’t included governmental assistance. He said it makes him “realize that the economy is starting to take on its own strength”.

Is being a County Commissioner all sunshine and roses?

When he became a County Commissioner, Dan already had a strong belief in the effectiveness of regional collaboration to make services more effective and efficient, including a passion to try a metropolitan form of government like Louisville, Kentucky in Montgomery County. In 2014 he assembled a group of community leaders to build a model of a possible consolidation of Montgomery County and the City of Dayton. The result was Dayton Together, proposed in July 2015.

By late 2015, however, Dayton Together had foundered on strong opposition from the Mayor and City Commission of Dayton, Dan’s fellow County Commissioners, and the NAACP, among others. Discouraged, the group withdrew the proposal in May 2016.

Dan remains a proponent of metropolitan government, believing consolidation can boost the economy, increase cost efficiencies and address population loss. The Wright State University School of Public Policy is cataloging the model, so the work is not lost.

Does he have any other dreams for Montgomery County?

Dan would like to develop a regional economic development system using data mining and analysis to

  • target companies that fit the area
  • link prospective companies to partner with existing area companies
  • solve companies’ workforce needs by connecting people who are ready and able to work with jobs
Dayton Fountains2.1
Five Rivers MetroParks – Riverscape

What’s around the corner?

Dan said he doesn’t have to decide about the next election for a while. “For me right now I’m pretty darned happy doing what I’m doing. This job feels like it’s a good fit.” His has seen that focusing on doing a good job can result in unexpected opportunities. Reflecting back, he said “I didn’t know I was going to get here and, oh my gosh, I can’t believe that I was trying to get a job in Ireland and I ended up being the Clerk of Courts.”

But what if your father isn’t a local elected official and you want to get into government? What do you do?

Dan recommends that if you want to serve in public office, you should:

  1. Build relationships around shared beliefs, attitudes and projects that help the community
  2. Listen, listen, listen
  3. Cultivate an active sense of curiosity
  4. Engage a variety of different people in conversation
  5. Remember: “Government can play a decent role in people’s lives. If you’re in this line of work you ought to believe that it has some value.”




Commissioner Dan Foley

Rodney Veal: Independent choreographer, interdisciplinary artist, TV host and educator

Rodney Veal

So you want to be a dancer or an artist!

When you told your family, did you hear, “How will you pay the rent? Get a real job, a real career.”

Rodney Veal has proved that you can support yourself, pay the rent and enjoy life while practicing the art you love. Rodney is an independent choreographer, interdisciplinary artist, TV show host, and adjunct faculty for Stivers School of the Performing Arts, Sinclair Community College and the University of Dayton.

I asked Rodney how he crafted his career. The highlights of his story follow. If you want to read more, go to the long version

How does a kid from rural Jefferson Township, Ohio make a career in the creative arts?

When Rodney Veal was growing up, he knew several things:

  • He relished the hours he spent drawing, painting, and making sculptures from a variety of materials
  • He was curious about many things and loved reading, particularly history, politics, government and science fiction
  • He was going to college

Rodney went to Eastern Michigan University intending to major in Visual Arts. He quickly learned that college is different than high school. Early in his first semester, one of his professors doled out nasty, harsh critiques, quickly taking the joy out of making art. So Rodney called his mother to tell her he was going to change majors. His mother said, “Oh no. You need to finish what you started.” But she offered an alternative, saying, “You can get an additional degree.”

Rodney knew he enjoyed reading about government and politics, so he opened the course catalog and found Political Science. He did a double major in Visual Art and Political Science, which took more classes. Five years later, he graduated.

But when did he learn dance?

Rodney took his first dance class at EMU to fulfill his physical education requirement and discovered he had an aptitude for ballet and modern dance. He happily took dance classes for the rest of his time in college, performing in front of audiences and choreographing works throughout college. Making a career in dance never occurred to him.

In his final semester at EMU, Rodney discovered it’s a bad idea to wait to the end to take your math requirement. Rodney passed – barely. He graduated from EMU with a strong foundation in the visual arts, knowledge of political systems, a love of dance, and no idea of what came next.

Okay, he got a college degree. Now what?

Rodney returned to his old summer job at the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). They placed him in mechanical parts distribution and he hated it. He stopped dancing, stopped making art and gained a lot of weight eating the ever-present donuts.

When you’re Rodney and you’re unhappy, what do you do?

Learn more! Rodney started taking dance classes at Sinclair Community College in the evenings. From there, he went to classes offered by the Dayton Ballet. He caught the eye of Barbara Pontecorvo, because he had “musical ability, ‘turn out’ and was a guy”. She invited him to dance with the Dayton Ballet II, so long as he lost weight and took every class they offered.

How did Rodney support himself as a dancer?

For two years, Rodney worked for ODOT during the day and danced at night. In 1992 Pontecorvo retired from the Dayton Ballet and founded Gem City Ballet, taking Rodney with her. When the stress of balancing work at ODOT with dancing wore him down, Rodney left for a series of jobs at Books & Co, the Neon Movies, and as a legal runner for Altick & Corwin, L.P.A. In addition, he acted in a variety of commercials to earn extra income.

Finally! Dance pays the rent!

Over the years, Rodney met a lot of people within the Dayton dance community. That network paved the way to an offer of a job as an adjunct teacher of dance at Stivers School of the Performing Arts, a public arts magnet school for Grades 7 through 12 in Dayton, Ohio. Teaching and choreographing dance at Stivers led to an invitation to teach dance at Sinclair Community College. After years of juggling dance with other work, Rodney was finally able to make a living as a dancer and dance teacher.

Then Rodney’s work world shifted. How did he cope?

In 2008, Sinclair changed its policy, requiring all adjuncts to have a master’s degree. Rodney recognized it was time to take the next step – pursue a Master’s in Fine Art (MFA). He had worked on projects with graduates of the MFA program at The Ohio State and liked the way they thought, so he applied.

But his college GPA, negatively impacted by that low math grade, almost killed his MFA hopes. The borderline status of his GPA increased the pressure to nail his audition and interview. He succeeded, however, and began three years of intense work and little sleep.

Driving daily between Dayton and Columbus, Rodney continued to teach at Stivers and Sinclair, while carrying a full course load at OSU. Stivers and Sinclair paid his rent and living expenses, and student loans paid for his MFA.

Did the MFA program change him?

Rodney started the MFA program at OSU focused on choreography, but quickly opened his mind to interdisciplinary dance creation. His professors encouraged him to connect dance with digital and media technology, using his skills in visual arts.

His MFA challenge: Go bigger; think deeper!

Throughout his time in the MFA, professors pushed Rodney to expand his ideas as he connected dance with other media. That push led to:

Summer 2009: Artist in Residence with the Blue Sky Dayton Project at the University of Dayton.

Project: create a multi-faceted, large scope performance art installation piece in collaboration with a creative team of high school students.

Result:  “To Me You’re a Work of Art”. Rodney and his team created  a world bt combining raw space in a building in downtown Dayton with dance, film, sod, and paint. As part of the piece, he got people to perform who had never danced before.

To Me You’re a Work of Art Performance
To Me You’re a Work of Art

2009 – Second Year: studied with William Forsythe, internationally renowned for combining traditional classical ballet with other disciplines.

Class with William Forsythe

Impact: Forsythe exposed him to the techniques needed to combine digital technology with dance.

Impact: Forsythe used a particular methodology for creating choreography, so Rodney developed a shorthand to capture the choreography process.

2010 – Third Year: MFA Thesis Exhibition

Project: “The Persistence of Memory”. Rodney combined traditional dance choreography with a giant paper sculpture suspended by cables, and video monitors projecting images from his past.Large View of Installation

Rodney Performance
The Persistence of Memory Performance

So Rodney got his MFA, and…?

Using all his experience from his MFA, Rodney has crafted a career of

  • Teaching dance at Stivers, Sinclair and the University of Dayton
  • Creating art – installation pieces and choreography
  • Performing as TV host and TEDX Dayton presenter

Wait! How did Rodney become a TV host?

In 2013 Rodney gave a TEDX Dayton presentation, moving through shadows, a video of dancers from Stivers Dance Ensemble performing his choreography to music by an Australian composer played by a French musician. Because ThinkTV filmed TEDX Dayton, Rodney reconnected with Richard Nordstrom, Chief Videographer. They met previously when Rodney acted in commercials while dancing with Dayton Ballet II and Gem City Ballet. Consequently, Nordstrom knew Rodney was comfortable on camera and could read from a teleprompter. So when ThinkTV started searching for a host for The Art Show, Lynnette Carlino, Producer at ThinkTV, called Rodney to invite him to audition and he made the cut.

The Art Show host

Now in its third year, The Art Show is an Ohio Valley Regional Emmy© Award winning weekly series on ThinkTV WPTD Channel 16. Rodney introduces profiles of artists in visual art, music, dance, and theater from southwestern Ohio and across the United States.

 Installation exhibitions:

Since 2010, Rodney has created a major installation each year. Rodney’s installation artworks combine video, 2-D images, sculptural pieces, music and performance inside a designated space to create an experience. Examples include

  • Reveal: Five Zones of Beauty, Springfield Museum of Art (2011)
Reveal: Five Zones of Beauty
  • Mythologies, Blue Sky Dayton (2012)
  • 2, 3, 4 – collaboration across the 2nd, 3rd and 4th dimensions between Rodney Veal (choreographer), Katherine Mann (visual artist), and Shaw Pong Liu (composer and violinist) (2012)
234 Performance

 What Rodney has learned…

  • Risk failure – when you fail, you’ll still be able to breathe and go on to the next thing
  • Remember failure isn’t personal – so many factors contribute to a result that it’s impossible to assign blame
  • Barter with your skills to get materials within your budget
  • Define your terms of engagement broadly – art is about the search for answers, not about accolades or stellar reviews
  • Pay attention – the questions you ask may control the answers you find
  • Take a deep breath – only your art peers will see the flaws in your work; the public is looking for answers
  • Make art that matters to you

Rodney recommends if you want to make money with your art, build your resume

  • Show and sell your work in curated galleries
  • Apply for curated shows in museums
  • Create and promote your digital presence

Want to learn more about Rodney?

2012 interview with Philip Titlebaum, Dayton Most
2013 TEDX Dayton moving through shadows
2014 interview with Meredith Moss, Dayton Daily News
2015 interview with Amelia Robinson,

Rodney’s Bio:

Rodney is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University with a B.S in Political Science and Visual Arts and The Ohio State University with an MFA in Choreography. He earned several Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District grants and fellowships. In addition, he received the 2016 OhioDance Award for outstanding contributions to the art form of dance in the state at the Ohio Dance Festival and several of his works have been performed as part of the Ohio Dance Festival. He was one of five artists chosen nationwide to participate in the Blue Sky Dayton Project Artist in Residency Program held in collaboration with the University of Dayton. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Ohio Dance as Vice President, as chair of the Blue Sky Project, and on the boards of Involvement Advocacy, HomeFull, Musica, the advisory board of WYSO and the Friends of Levitt Pavilions Dayton.

What do you want to be when you grow up? And how do you get there?

Some people know exactly what they want to do in life and follow a path that leads straight in that direction. My stepdaughter, Erin, is one such person. She knew in 9th grade that she wanted to be a doctor and pursued that path through high school, college and medical school. It wasn’t easy; many of the steps were rigorous and the outcome wasn’t always assured, but the path was clear.

Other people know their direction, but not the route they will follow. Artists, for example, frequently recognize their passion, but have to learn how to turn their talent and skills into a career. Along the way, they are often pressed to find multiple ways to sustain themselves. I will interview working artists to learn how they’ve crafted their career to pay the rent while practicing their art.

Entrepreneurs often know they want to start a business, but there’s a long path from idea to opening day. What kind of business? How will they raise the start-up cash? What space is needed? Personnel? Equipment? Different people choose different ways to answer all the questions. How did they know what steps to take? What worked? What would they do again? What would they avoid? As I interview business owners, I will probably discover that different people answer these questions in a variety of ways. Are there any common threads? I’m hoping to answer that question, too.

Many other people, myself included, struggle to find their career direction, changing jobs multiple times. I’ve tried a variety of occupations, acquiring skills, experience and self-awareness, as well as some good stories along the way. Some of my past jobs are

  • managing a drop-in day care center
  • caring for baby bulls in a lab studying implantation of artificial hearts
  • shepherding tax-free investment vehicles as a corporate attorney
  • teaching aerobics
  • directing a non-profit literacy coalition
  • writing grant proposals for national, state and local funders
  • administering programs designed to increase student success in a community college

Although I envied people who knew their career direction, I did realize over time that I love to write. But I wasn’t sure how to turn that into a career. So this blog gives me a chance to do what I love while I satisfy my curiosity about how other people create their careers.

I will follow my curiosity to discover how real people crafted careers outside of traditional pathways. I will share their stories to show the questions they asked, the obstacles they overcame and the decisions they made.

As I explore these stories, please let me know the questions you have, so I can continue to seek answers that will satisfy all of our curiosities.