Eight women who are making a difference in West Chester and Liberty Township

Becky Wilber

President and owner of Cincinnati Taco Investments (CTI) Restaurants and President of the Union Centre Boulevard Merchant Association (UCBMA)

As the owner of CTI Restaurants, you own many local Taco Bells and an Uno Pizzeria. Tell us about your role.

Transitioning from corporate restaurant management to having my own business was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Had I stayed in the corporate world, I would have a more normal 9-to-5 life, but this is 24/7. You have to have that commitment, or you won’t be successful.

You and your husband were recently given the 2018 Patricia F. Alderson Philanthropist of the Year Award by the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty. How have you impacted the community?

I’m most proud of what we give back to the community in service and support. We have supported over 150 local organizations. These organizations have included the Boys and Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty, Lakota Schools, the Boy Scouts of America, The Heroes’ Fund, The Angel Fund, Give Hope, Companions on a Journey, and numerous community events.

As a “Leading Lady” in the community, what’s something you’ve learned on your journey? 

The ability I have to make a difference in people’s lives. This applies to my family, our community and those I am blessed to have in our company.

Who is someone who has inspired you and why? 

My mother. She always helped others, believed in me, pushed hard, and continually did and expected perfection in everything I did.

What is your advice to our readers?

Believe in God, others and yourself. Anything is possible!

 

Angie Brown

Educational Consultant for Lakota Outreach, Diversity and Inclusion (LODI)

What do you do in your role at Lakota?

My role consists, among many things, of parent engagement, community outreach and diversity and inclusion. In that role, I’m able to meet the needs of the students, parents, community and the Lakota staff.

What inspires you to give back to our community?

Every day is my inspiration to give back; every day is a chance to start over, count my blessings and give myself away. I could never walk around full and know I’ve hidden my gifts. My husband and I were involved in a near fatal car accident in 2011, and I spent six months in the hospital and rehab. I believe that’s one of the reasons I’m inspired to give. I’m now earning my Ph.D. in educational leadership to give the gift of education to students, parents, and community.

Tell me a bit about your family.

I have been married for over 35 years to the man of my dreams. We have three wonderful young adults. My daughters are both Ph.D.’s, and my son is a mechanical engineer. I also have a son-in-law, a soon-to-be daughter-in-law, and a wonderful grand-pup, Harley.

If you could go anywhere, where would you go?

Next year, I want to drive Route 66. I want my husband to rent me a big old Cadillac with Aretha Franklin blasting. Sunglasses and a beautiful scarf on!

What is a life lesson you have learned?

When a person is going through something, ALWAYS allow them to walk away from you with their dignity. If there is a misunderstanding, clear it up as soon as possible. Relationships are the key to a great life.

 

Patti Alderson

CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty, Former President and CEO of the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty, Philanthropist

In addition to your work at the Community Foundation, you have played a significant role in starting the Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty. How did that come about?

It was through my work at the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty that I realized the need for a Boys & Girls Club for the youth in our community. I formed a steering committee and shortly thereafter we received a $750,000 grant from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Mortgage Settlement Grant. We were able to start the Club in a leased building on Smith Road. However, the grant required us to have our own facility so we began fundraising $6.8 million to build the current state-of-the-art facility on Cincinnati-Dayton Road. I was thrilled when we opened the doors on January 4, 2017, thanks to the generous financial support of our community and beyond. The Club provides a safe place for children after school and in the summer.

Who inspires you?

The staff at the Boys & Girls Club. They are so passionate about the kids. Everything they do has the Club kids in mind. It is the little things, the everyday things, that make the difference. It’s a joyful place to work. 

What is a life lesson you have learned?

One quote that I kind of live by is, “Sometimes you just take the leap and build your wings on the way down.” If I get an idea, I just do it and jump in. Don’t wait. Decide you’re going to do it, and you know what? Things will come to you as you’re going through it and building it.

 

Shakila Ahmad

Former Chair and President of the Board of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati (ICGC), Business leader 

You’ve been heavily involved in the community for the past 20 years, what were some of your other roles?

I was the Founding Chair of ICGC’s Tour and Muslim Mothers Against Violence initiative, Board Chair of BRIDGES for a Just Community and a national Muslim Jewish Advisory council member.

Who has inspired you to be so active in the community?

The one person, who is a historical figure, is a woman named Khadija, and she was a business woman 1,400 years ago. She was a civic leader.  And to me, I think she epitomizes that there’s nothing that really should limit me from being the leader in an organization or in a business or contributing to society in a very active way.

Were there any challenges for you as a female leader within your organization?

Nothing worth doing is worth doing unless there are challenges and obstacles. I think people do want to superimpose limitations on you that don’t belong there. As far as we know I was the first woman chair of the board and president for an Islamic center in the country, especially of this size. So, I think there were a lot of preconceived notions of limitations. But once people began to work with me, I really feel I was very blessed to be able to have this opportunity.

What is your advice to our readers?

Don’t put limitations on yourself. Sometimes, we as women impose limitations on ourselves. We expect and want other people to ask us to do things, when if we look within, we have the capability and we should just go for it. Go for what it is that will ignite passion in you and that will contribute to the kind of world that you will want to leave behind.

 

Ashley Lindsey

Founder, Girl Boss Events

Girl Boss Events (GBE) is a collaborative of female small-business owners. How does Girl Boss Events make an impact on the community?

GBE offers support and encouragement to women who have started their businesses from the ground up by hosting monthly mixers for those women to get together, talk about life, business, etc. GBE also hosts pop-up shops to showcase the women-owned businesses to the community, reminding the community they can shop local and support local entrepreneurs right here in West Chester and Liberty Township.

What inspired you to start GBE?

I was inspired by seeing how so many women and moms in our community had started their own businesses, and I wanted to create a fun community where they could be offered encouragement and support in a non-competitive space. We believe in community over competition! 

How can someone get involved with GBE?

If you are a ground-up business owner, we’d love to have you join the community. It truly is a one-of-a-kind atmosphere where friendships are made. Visit our website to fill out a membership application and learn more. GirlBossCincinnati.com

What is a life lesson that you’ve learned?

To give grace to everyone you meet because you don’t know what they’re going through. In specifics to women who started their own business, they could be experiencing depression or anxiety or just feeling alone in their season of life. So just know that everyone’s on a different journey than you are and to give grace to those people.

What is your advice to our readers?

Don’t forget about the big picture and trust in the plan. There’s always going to be a new door than opens. Trust your gut and your heart to fulfill that plan.

 

Amitoj Kaur

Senior at Lakota West High School, National Vice President of Membership for FCCLA

Tell me about Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).

FCCLA is a career-tech, student-led organization that helps students prepare for their future. FCCLA focuses on family, leadership and other skills, including job interview skills, how to budget, exploring career paths and more. These are real-world skills that aren’t taught in a traditional classroom. Before freshman year, I thought I’d be a therapist, but my advocacy project in FCCLA helped me realize my love for legislation and politics.

What is your role in FCCLA?

I began FCCLA a little over three years ago when I did an advocacy project for FCCLA’s state conference; I was hooked! I saw the state officers got to wear gorgeous red blazers and seemed so confident and distinguished. I knew this was where I wanted my future to be. I ran for state office, becoming the Ohio VP of Member Outreach. My advisor and my principal supported the idea of running for National FCCLA office, even though no one from Lakota West had done it before. The journey to national office included a lot of competition, but I was the first person from Ohio to be elected in the past 15 years, and I am the first Sikh to gain national office in a career-technical student organization.

Who is someone who has inspired you?

Ann Roberts, my FCCLA advisor. She believes in me and pushes me. She inspired me to run for national office and encouraged me every step of the way.

What is a life lesson you’ve learned?

My big life lesson has been that it doesn’t matter what your qualifications are. It doesn’t matter who you are or who you know. What matters is your passion and your heart for what you are doing.

 

Katey Kruback and Lauren Maier

Seniors and Co-Editors, Spark Magazine at Lakota East High School

What have you learned so far from managing the magazine?

Lauren: It teaches me how to manage time, extracurriculars and my life in general. It’s like having a job, so it’s taught me a lot of life lessons. 

Katey: I’ve learned a lot about people. Going in, I very much thought I knew what I was getting into, but I did not anticipate the people management part of the job…I’m not social by nature and having to manage people has been a real learning curve.

Who inspires you?

Lauren: The people around me. My staff members inspire me along with Mr. Hume [our advisor]. They help me to push myself and improve upon what I already know.

Katey: I’m going to be really cheesy about this and say my advisor, Mr. Hume. I don’t know how he has managed to be in the position that he’s in and get the wonderful things out of kids that he does. I wish I had that skill, and it’s something I’ve had to learn to pick up as much as possible.

What is a life lesson you’ve learned?

Lauren: Just be in the moment. Observe everything around you. It’s really awesome to see all the small things going on around you.

Katey: One night we were working really late at my house during deadline and we wanted to pull our hair out and the computer crashed at least 50 times. So, our business manager said, “We have to take a break. Let’s make cookies.” We ended up finishing the paper and were really proud of it. So, my advice is to keep going and find the fun in everything.

What’s next for you?

Lauren: I’m going to the University of Dayton, studying biology on a pre-med track.

Katey: I’m going to Ohio University next year and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism as of now.

 

Shannon Villalba

Founder and CEO of HIME Wellness, Entier Agency LLC, HIME Foundation Inc.

What is your role at Healing Through Inspiration, Motivation and Education (HIME) Wellness?

HIME Wellness was born from my passion to empower people with knowledge regarding holistic therapies. During my small cell cervical cancer journey in 2016, I used holistic therapies alongside chemotherapy and radiation. For many years I practiced meditation, aromatherapy and crystal therapy, so I knew what to do and who to see but realized many people do not. I oversee the community and promote our mission to empower others with knowledge.

What do your organizations offer the community?

HIME Wellness is the benchmark for people to find expert guidance and trusted holistic practitioners. As a social enterprise company, HIME provides expertise in holistic wellness solutions through classes, events, therapies and corporate wellness. HIME Foundation Inc. offers outreach programs for individuals such as seniors, cancer patients/survivors and other nonprofits. My other organization, Entier Agency, furnishes marketing and business support for holistic health practitioners.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love music, hanging out with family and friends, outdoor activities, crystals and meditation.

Tell us a little about your family.

I have a son who is 16. Originally from Florida, many family members live here including my parents, sister and brother-in-law, as well as other aunts, uncles and cousins.

What is a life lesson you’ve learned?

Believe in yourself. No matter how difficult it is, find an affirmation or a list of things that you’ve accomplished to help you get over the humps. Being an entrepreneur is extremely hard, especially when you are building something new. It helps when other people believe in you too. It does take a village!