RICHMOND COUNTY — March is designated as Women’s History Month. Instead of looking at the past, however, we’ve decided to take a snapshot of some of the movers and shakers of today that are creating tomorrow’s history.
This is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive list of women who are impacting business, education and nonprofit sectors in Richmond County. Instead, it’s meant to be a symbolic but substantial insight to the challenges women in business face today and how they overcome those obstacles. It’s also meant to show the younger people in Richmond County that, regardless of gender, there are roles to fulfill in the professional world right here.
Did we miss someone? Feel free to send a letter to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org if there’s someone we don’t have on the list. Be sure to tell us why they they should be included.
Amy Guinn, Cafe on Main
Guinn, 51, has been the owner of Cafe on Main in Hamlet since October 2012. She has a total of 10 employees that work for her.
Her responsibilities include a little bit of everything. She hires and fires, deals with the payroll, checks inventory and places orders for the restaurant while also overseeing the daily operations of the restaurant in person. She also deals with marketing and advertising for the restaurant.
Being a woman who is an owner of a business has been a challenging and rewarding task for her. Guinn said that she has come across those that don’t treat her the same way they would treat a man in her position, and she has even had employees tell her that as well. However, her more understanding and pleasant nature has worked towards her advantage when dealing with customers and her vendors.
Lesley King, Perdue Farms
King, 51, works as the human resources manager for Perdue Farms in Rockingham. She works with a total of seven people in the human resources department and has been in charge for the past two years. She has been in the human resources field for 14 years.
As the manager, she helps ensure that the company is being fair and consistent in the implementation of rules. She also provides a sounding board for the employees and makes herself available for them.
King has used her skills as a woman for the betterment of the field she is working in. She said that women have the advantage of being better listeners. Women are also usually more organized and detail oriented as well as more approachable. She doesn’t see any disadvantages in her line of work. If you have ambition and work hard you can advance no matter what your gender is.
Mary Ellen Shea, Richmond County Hospice
Shea, 68, is the chief executive officer at Richmond County Hospice.
She oversees 55 employees for the nonprofit organization while doing a little bit of everything for the business. She takes full responsibility for the operations of hospice and she ensures the quality of care for patients and families that come to hospice. She has been at this job for five “wonderful” years.
Shea really doesn’t see any disadvantages to being a woman in her position at hospice. It’s all about working hard and being a good leader regardless of gender, but she does see advantages that she tries to use in the operation of hospice.
“As a woman in a leadership position, I get the opportunity to mentor other women,” Shea said. “Also, I am a nurturer by nature, and I think that is a big advantage in working here. Ultimately though, your effectiveness as a leader has nothing to do with age or gender. It’s all about your willingness to grow.”
Amy Hamilton Forester, FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital
Forester, 45, has been the outreach manager at FirstHealth in Rockingham since 2004, but has been working for the hospital for almost 15 years. Right now she has two specific employees that report directly to her, but the departments at the hospital work together.
As the outreach manager, she handles a lot of different issues and programs such as the medication assistance program and raising community awareness on the dangers of smoking. In Richmond County she is the primary person at the hospital for people to quit smoking. She also deal with other general community activities and coordinates programs through the schools.
The biggest advantage of being a woman, to her, is that she considers herself to be a real person with real responsibilities. As a wife and mom, she can put herself in other people’s shoes, though it’s because of these responsibilities that others may look at her differently as a woman in a leadership position.
“Sometimes people don’t always give you a chance because you are a woman with children,” Forester said. “They think you can’t balance life and family obligations, but for the most part people in our community have been very supportive.”
Deb Holmes-Roberts, Deb’s Place
Holmes-Roberts, 44, just opened up her own business on March 3. She believes her store is a one-stop shop for the residents of Richmond County that offers unique used items that may not be found elsewhere in the county. She has been in the antique and resale business for years.
Holmes-Roberts said that there isn’t a part of her store that isn’t her. She runs everything from receiving items for the store to the management of funds. She believes that being a working woman has made her stronger and has made her a good influence for her children.
“It shows my kids that if you want something you bust your butt to get it,” Holmes-Roberts said.
While Holmes-Roberts believes that running the store has made her stronger, but there are days it is a struggle. She said there are times where people will ask to speak to her husband instead of her, but it hasn’t been too much of a problem in recent years.
Katie Rohleder, Discovery Place KIDS
Rohleder, 35, is the director at the nonprofit children’s museum in Rockingham.
There are two other full-time employees that work under her along with a handful of adult and youth volunteers. It is never the same day twice, in Rohleder’s opinion, as each day requires different things from her.
She helps manage the budget, take care of the operation of the museum, delegates out responsibilities, planning special events and just sitting down with guests and getting to know them.
Working with the museum, Rohleder hasn’t run into any disadvantages of being a woman in a leadership position. She refers to the nature and culture of Discovery Place as the reason she hasn’t run into any issues. The president and CEO is a woman and most directors are women.
She has only experienced one instance where a man was shocked that she, and not a man, was over the operation of the local museum. Other than that the people in the community have been very open and respectful to her as a woman as much as they would be to a man.
Emily Tucker, Richmond County Chamber of Commerce
Tucker, 38, became the president of the chamber in 2006 and has been with the chamber since 1997. She has one full-time staff member along with several volunteers that work under her.
She is ultimately responsible for the total operations of the organization. She also serves as the primary staff point of contact for the officers, executive committee, board of directors, and members of the chamber. As a woman, she has faced challenges in her position as president.
“I think women face different challenges in comparison to men,” Tucker said. “Sometimes they may not feel as confident and they may have to work harder to earn respect as a women even though they may have the same schooling and training. You just have to prove yourself and earn respect. It can be done and it has been done.”
Christy Land, FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital
Land, 38, has been the director of clinical performance for the past three years at the hospital in Rockingham. As the director, she really over sees things, not people, so there are no employees directly under her.
She deals with the overall quality of the hospital as well as regulatory compliance and accreditation.
Land has found it to be a struggle to balance things between work, family, school and after school programs for her kids, but loves the sense of accomplishment in being able to balance all the different hats that she has to wear. She also believes that, as a woman, she has the ability to promote team building and networking.
Amber Marcengill, Rocking Trends
Marcengill, 34, is the owner and master stylist of Rocking Trends Consignment Boutique in downtown Rockingham.
The store celebrated its one year anniversary earlier this month. Marcengill is the only employee, but she does host a handful of volunteers and has the opportunity to mentor a lot of young ladies.
As the owner, everything in the store is part of her including inventory, checks and balances, social media and advertising. She helps try and generate money in Richmond County with over 400 consignors as well as help support Richmond County Animal Advocates.
Marcengill said she had a bit of a different take on disadvantages of being a woman running her own business. In fact, she said she had more female doubters than male. She is not originally from the area and so there were a few who doubted her ability to be successful, but she has met some amazing female mentors in the area that have helped her. She has taken what she has learned from them and is trying to mentor other women in the business world.
Sharon Haigler Wallace, Haigler and Wallace Company
Wallace, 38, is the owner of the husband and wife online company that does custom leather dog collars along with other items. She has been in business since 2009.
Her responsibilities include keeping the website up to date, answering customer questions and taking in orders. She also is responsible for putting the protective coatings on all the leather products that come from the company. She has taken the skills she has learned from her father to help run her own business including the importance of professionalism and customer service.
Since she works in an online business, most people are very unaware that they are dealing with a woman on the other end, so she has not experienced any real disadvantages in her work.
“I believe if the customer is not sure you are a woman, you may be able to bypass unnecessary banter about being a woman,” Wallace said. “In my experience, some people believe that, in general, women are very organized and pay attention to details and make use of mannerisms; whereas, others feel that a woman does not have a clue as to how to run a business.”
Allison Duckworth, FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital
Duckworth, 51, has been the chief operating officer and nursing executive at the hospital in Rockingham for almost eight years. She currently oversees the nursing staff of approximately 200 employees.
Her responsibilities at the hospital include managing the day-to-day nursing operations as well as the overall quality of the hospital for patients and guests. She also has her hand in pharmacy, rehabilitation and nutrition.
She believes that as a woman, she has a talent for building relationships and working in collaboration with others. She also enjoys mentoring other individuals. Plus, a lot of the employees at the hospital are female, and she feels she can relate to them.
Overall she has not had to deal with any disadvantages because of her gender, though it has been a challenge to balance work and the needs of her family from time to time, but she views that as a challenge that men face as well. She believes that she approaches any decision for the hospital as any leader would, regardless of gender.
Melissa Sackstein Newton, 1/2 Baked (Home of Creative Catering by Melissa)
Newton, 47, is the owner and manager of a restaurant and catering service at 415 S. Long Drive in Rockingham. A native New Yorker, her first job in 1985 was peeling potatoes in a neighborhood deli.
Over the years, she worked a variety of jobs at other small and chain restaurants and hotels, learning the business from the inside out. Now she is living the dream of owning a deli herself. She operates it with the help of her husband and three female employees.
“Vendors and business people in general who come in here find it hard to believe that I am the main point of contact as the business owner,” Newton said. “People just assume that there’s a man in charge. When they ask to speak to the manager and I say ‘Hi, I’m Melissa. Can I help you?’ people are always taken aback.”
Miranda Chavis, Hamlet Depot and Museums
Chavis, 31, keeps her time busy as the museum manager and downtown coordinator for the city of Hamlet. While she doesn’t run a business, she holds a key leadership position for the city of Hamlet.
She manages the day-to-day functions of the museum while trying to publicize events and help increase attendance to the museum. She also helps organize projects in downtown Hamlet to help the city realize its full potential. She has a total of 40 volunteers that help in the museum’s function. While she has put forth her best effort in making downtown Hamlet the place to be in the city, it can be challenging.
“There is always that disadvantage of people not taking you seriously because you’re a woman,” Chavis said. “As a woman, you almost have to work harder. I’m not saying this from personal experience, but it’s my observation. Women, however, have an incredible advantage while being in a leadership position. We multitask by nature. We balance work, home and children. Women can take those same talents and apply them to the business world.”
Staff writers Melonie Flomer and Matt Harrelson contributed to this report.