WBC Chair Chat

This time of year, I often see friends participate in a series of gratitude posts on Facebook, or is it Meta now? Regardless, I do not usually join in such posts. However, they often push me to reflect on the joy in my life. Of course, there is my family and friends, their health, their happiness, and safety, which are all of utmost importance to me. My dog, who doesn’t want to walk far, go outside or engage in much physical activity, but she still provides me with unconditional love.

My career has been both rewarding and fulfilling. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I began to understand my privilege, more specifically, my white privilege. My village worked on building a baseball field for the children. Yet, it was proving difficult as they did not have funding to rent a large piece of machinery to smooth out the field. I suggested I travel to the city to ask the Highway Supervisor for help. They had tried many times to do this and were regularly turned down. Reluctantly, I met with the county Highway Supervisor. Upon my in-person request, he very quickly brought the machinery to my village. As frustrated as I was with the assumption of my village members, I quickly learned that my white skin was an advantage. 

Throughout my career working in Capital Region nonprofits, I benefitted immensely from the privilege of education and family support. Leadership roles were open to me based on the education and experience afforded by my family and their social standing. I could afford to take those positions, even when those salaries were insufficient to afford child care – again, with the help of family.  Through this awareness, I worked to ensure my role with the Early Care & Learning Council prioritized the systemic racism that exists in early education. We work to eliminate the suspension of black and brown boys from childcare so they have the same opportunities, from a young age, to succeed. We also tirelessly advocate for women-of-color-educators so that they are compensated at the same rate as their white counterparts.

As the Chair-Elect of the Women’s Business Council, I find that my commitment to racial equity aligns with the WBC’s mission to cultivate an inclusive community that empowers, educates, and advances all women as leaders. This year’s Creating a Culture of Inclusion and the Evolution of Women in Leadership events, panelists and participants engaged in a real conversation about advocacy; and lifting women, and more importantly, women of color, up within the workforce. I am grateful that I have an opportunity to lead the WBC. The network of women leaders, emerging leaders, and visionary leaders has allowed me to understand the critical importance of sisterhood and kindness. I encourage each of you to join us as active Women’s Business Council members. Join one of the WBC’s committees, which advance our programming, engagement, and adopt-a-non-profit from the region. You can recommend diverse chamber members to speak at one of our events or be spotlighted in the WBC Blog.

Why do I tell these stories in this forum? Because it is Thanksgiving, and beyond giving thanks for what we have, I hope you might join us in creating a future where there is more for everyone to be thankful for.

Special Thanksgiving and Black Friday Poll

According to a Siena College special Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend poll, 72% of respondents will gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving; 38% will travel and many will shop.  Sixty-two percent will shop online on Cyber Monday and 41% will shop on Small Business Saturday. Thirty-eight percent will shop in stores on Black Friday while 24% say they will shop all weekend long. Twenty-six percent do not plan to shop at all over the weekend.

“Three out of every four New Yorkers plan to enjoy a holiday gathering with extended family and friends this week and about half of them will travel to get to that turkey dinner,” said Don Levy, SCRI’s Director.

Asked which Thanksgiving traditions they will enjoy this year, majorities of New Yorkers say: cooking their favorite recipes (77%), eating too much (73%), decorating for Christmas or other upcoming holidays (63%), watch football (57%), play board games or cards (56%), shop (56%), and meet up with old friends (56%). Of those traditions, New Yorkers say that cooking, eating too much, seeing old friends and watching football are on top of their holiday ‘to-enjoy’ list.

“New Yorkers are excited to take a deep breath, relax, eat and play with family and friends after the pandemic dampened the last two Thanksgivings. Not only will New Yorkers cook, eat, shop and watch football but many will watch or attend a parade, catch a movie, have a Friendsgiving and hope for the best as they snap the wishbone,” Levy said. “And over a quarter will remember those that are not as fortunate as they volunteer to serve a community meal.”

“From all of us at the Siena College Research Institute to you, Have a Happy Thanksgiving,” Levy and the entire team said.

On Veteran’s Day…

The Veterans & Community Housing Coalition is the WBC’s Adopted Non-Profit for 2022.

Over 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night in the United States. Nearly 600 homeless veterans are in the Capital District.

A grassroots effort is underway to build Foreverly House, a two-family home to provide stable, safe, supportive housing for homeless Veteran moms and their children. Sadly, there is no facility of this kind in New York.
Veterans and Community Housing Coalition (VCHC) is partnering with businesses, individuals as well as community groups and leaders to make this dream a reality

Other VCHC Programs: Transitional Housing, Permanent Housing, Community Housing and the Meal Pantry

When you give money, it’s for a cause you believe in – you want to help.

Text VCHCDONATE to 88793 or visit their website to see how you can help: https://www.vchcny.org/

Women in Business Spotlight: Angela Barrett

Angela Barrett is a commercial artist and business owner in Clifton Park, NY. Considering art as an essential expression of oneself, she works to bring artful experiences to her community through many different channels. Raised in New Jersey, Barrett graduated summa cum laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a concentration in Graphic Design. Her artwork was showcased at numerous shows, including the Invitational Student Art Show. Initially drawn to working in print media and finding ways to develop its visual appearance and possibilities, Barrett joined the student campus newspaper, The Metro, serving as Editor in Chief for three years. She spent her summer months running the Arts & Crafts program at Agnes DeWitt Girl Scout Camp in Neshanic Station, New Jersey, sharing various age-appropriate art techniques and media with hundreds of campers, ages 5-16, each week.

After earning her degree, Barrett took on a manager role at a pottery painting and glass-fusing studio in New Jersey. During her nearly six years there, she created cherished keepsakes as the resident custom painter while aiding countless families and individuals to discover their inner artistic talent. In addition to enjoying the design of delightful fused glass jewelry, dishes, and decorations as part of her position, Barrett also marketed her works locally through craft shows and nationally through Etsy.

In 2013, Barrett combined her experience at this studio with her desire to sculpt her business to establish Arts & Glass Studio in Clifton Park, NY. She’s developed the studio into a world-class haven for art for thousands of visitors, a beloved destination for people of all ages looking for a relaxing, artistic experience. Ever seeking to find new ways of introducing art to the community, she has developed a full range of programming, including summer camps, family events, and after-school enrichment classes. In the nine years of operation, Barrett’s Arts & Glass enrichment classes have appeared in more than eight local schools, providing unique opportunities for students in grades K through 5 to explore multiple forms of art-making and active learning through art.

Besides her involvement in generating art in the studio and running the business, Angela has also made sure to find time to work and develop her digital design skills, which have been appreciated well beyond her immediate community. Some of her favorite commercial design projects include poster artwork for Fairleigh Dickinson University’s musical production of “Hair,” tee shirt logos and full CD artwork for the PALS Children’s Chorus of Boston (a frequent collaborator with the Boston Symphony Orchestra), and program layout for multiple events (including the Larry Buell Symposium and Quadricentennial Milton Symposium) at Harvard University.

Barrett’s goal is to share her love of creating art with those around her. Indeed, Barrett’s entire career (whether working on a print media team, partnering with youth institutions to develop programming, or facilitating family projects) has been about sharing the thrilling work of making art with others, empowering people and especially children, to appreciate the creativity and ingenuity they have within themselves. To this day, Barrett can’t help from peeking into the kiln to catch the very glimpse of finished artwork, and she loves seeing the same look of astonished delight on the faces of her customers and students when they unwrap and look at those pieces they made in her shop. Something is inspiring, Barrett has always believed, about realizing that you can, with your own hands and imagination, alongside friends and loved ones, create something so satisfyingly unique, so distinctly your own; and Barrett continues to bring that sense of joy and accomplishment to children and families discovering their talents and the distinct pleasure of making art together.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love when people come to pick up their pieces, the moment when people see their pieces and are surprised at how artistic they can be. It’s a very happy job!

What’s one thing you learned in the last month?

I relearned how to make balloon animals. There were balloon dogs and flowers all over the house for a while.

What’s something about you that not many people know?

My husband and I met online but not the way that you think. We met while playing World of Warcraft, started chatting privately, and eventually met in real life.

What’s your favorite hobby?

I’ve always been a crafter. Not fibercraft, but papercraft and beading. Kids give me an excuse to do it all over again.

Arts and Glass is located at 19 Clifton Country Road in Clifton Park, New York.

WBC Spotlight: Karen Lombardo

Miss Tillie

Karen Lombardo, the talented author of the WBC’s 5 Things posts, worked for many years in corporate America, frequently traveling and going on the road as she commuted to her headquarters two states away.  In 2017, she decided to take a leap of faith and start her own consulting business.  The evolution of her business is only one part of this feature article, she is a woman who has persevered and has exhibited strength and grace under heartbreaking circumstances.  Somehow, Karen has a ready laugh and a good story when you speak with her.  She also shared that her business brings her joy and is still fun for her.

Karen’s first venture was a blog post named Pasta on the Floor, comprising stories about her life.   Her two companies, Put Another Way and My Little Love Note offered services of web design, copywriting, and wedding speeches. Recently, she has rebranded to start the “Virtual Copywriter.” It is a metamorphosis, combining both into one.

As a content writer, no day is the same for Karen.  On a daily basis, she could write her two blogs, conduct a website audit, and have to work on writing a wedding vow or a best-man speech for a wedding.  Some of her work feeds her professionally and some of it personally.

When she gets writer’s block, she turns to her work as a Secretary of Juliet.  A special gig where she volunteers to write responses to people from all over the world who write “Letters to Juliet.” Yes, just like in the movie.  People who are lovelorn, heartbroken or a bit lost and need advice, write in.  They just need to talk, and she thinks of it as her own therapy. Karen is quick to state she is not a therapist and is careful not to give that type of advice but she takes time to respond in a thoughtful way that will help take the burden away from those who write to Juliet seeking comfort.

Karen has raised a family and is now a pup-mom to her English bulldog rescue, Miss Tillie.  Miss Tillie sits at her feet, with her underbite protruding, looking up at Karen with soulful eyes, keeping her company as she works.

The last 16 months for Karen have been life-changing. She lost her beloved husband, Chip in the summer of 2021.  It has been a blur as Karen stepped in to run Chip’s businesses while juggling her own businesses.  Even though the loss is too deep to describe, Karen continues to write: resumes, blogs, speeches, and even wedding vows.  She is an officiant, too, so she can both write the vows and officiate the wedding!

Although the last 16 months have been painful and so many life changes have taken place, when Karen looks to the future she sees herself continuing to grow the “Virtual Copywriter” business, producing videos for Instagram, and has recently brought on a new member who is working on her social media platforms.

Please go to Karen’s website and check out the work she does (not only will it allow you to see her creative work, but you can also catch a glimpse of her humor with her blog Pasta on the Floor.

What advice would you give your younger self?: My 13-year-old self was nowhere near ready for the world and in part, neither was my adult self.  My husband Chip was strong and encouraging and told me I could do anything. I hear him in my thoughts when I want to give up or feel overwhelmed.  How lucky is that?

Bold in Business: Voices in the Crowd

Thursday, October 18, over 120 women networked and listened to Kimberly Brown, a leadership expert and author. What a morning!! Check out some of the takeaways from those in the room.

Jessica Klos Shapiro, Senior Director of Policy and Community Education, Early Care & Learning Council. I would say some key takeaways for me were that Kimberly reminded me how important having a series of short-term goals is key to long-term success. We sometimes get so busy that we don’t see how all the pieces need to come together. Her advice about having a diverse network was also so important. You never know who you are going to meet. Nurture all of your relationships.

Budhan Ramcharan, Birth to Five Program Associate, Early Care & Learning Council. I did not know what to expect when I attended the WBC Bold in Business event with author Kimberly Brown. As Kimberly began to speak about “Next Move, Best Move,” I began connecting with the presented content.

Kimberly talked about marketing/branding oneself ; networking, and making strategic career moves. After listening to Kimberly, I am challenged to cultivate myself, to grow professionally and personally. I want to thank the Chamber and its sponsors for hosting this enriching event.

Christine Theophel, Events Coordinator, RMHC of the Capital Region. I had an awesome time yesterday. It was actually my first time going to an event of that nature. What I enjoyed most was sharing a space with women of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels. You could tell from the discussion and Q&A that there were so many different professions in the room—entrepreneurs, non-profits, lawyers, finance, etc. Even though we may be in different lines of work, as women in business many of us have the same struggles and insecurities in regards to moving forward in our careers. In addition to having a wonderful, engaging speaker, it felt like a “community” event where people could feel comfortable being open and sharing without being judged.

Michelle LaVoy, Membership Development Officer, First New York Federal Credit Union. Kimberly was such an engaging speaker. I thought it was very interesting when she talked about picturing the ideal day and what that would include. I liked how she imagined what she would be doing at work and what excited her about that. Taking a look at what you have learned throughout your career and what you have enjoyed in each role. Using those skills to market your brand. The networking piece stood out to me as well. We need to focus more on fostering relationships at the events. Make more eye contact, and engage in conversation without looking to see who else you can talk to. Building your network of supporters, sponsors, and mentors.
There are so many more. I can’t wait to read her book and get into more detail.

5 Things for a Fall State of Mind

From the desk of Karen Lombardo, The Virtual Copywriter

Why are we so surprised when the sun rises later, and the temperatures dip down? We know fall is coming beginning in mid-August when we start seeing subtle changes. How about we make a pact right here and now to embrace the fall? Perhaps these five things will turn your fall gray skies to blue!

Just breathe and look at the world around you. You know life is fragile, and we rarely have the time, desire, or opportunity to breathe. I remember when the kids were little, early Saturday morning soccer games in the damp and cold. My husband and I would make an event out of it, from steamy hot coffee to donning our favorite sweatshirts and hoodies. The kids were so happy and enjoying the game in that crisp air. We shared coffee and chatted with other parents; fall was all around us.

How about a fall beverage? Ok, speaking of coffee, are you pumpkin spice aficionados? To each his own, and we take coffee seriously in my house. However, Friday night brings pizza and beverages of choice.  We are fortunate in the Capital Region to be surrounded by wonderful breweries, wineries, and eateries serving beverages and snacks.  Get out this weekend and try something new.

Fireplace or fire pit?

The smell of fireplaces certainly rings in the fall.  A good fire in an outdoor fireplace or firepit makes raking leaves and cleaning the yard much better. (That and some great music to rake by, but that is another story for another day).

Get cozy! As I open the trunk, my closet smells of cedar, harboring my fall sweaters. Cozy and heavy with warm wool and memories of the falls that came before. Flannel, puffy vests, and fingerless gloves make me smile.  Get cozy with your favorite football team’s jersey or sweatshirt and watch the game. I love walking through my neighborhood and seeing all the team flags waving in the breeze. Professional and college football teams, so I must make a shameless plug for Alabama football- Roll Tide.

Take a walk. Early mornings and late evenings on a clear night reveal the full moons that will appear and guide us on a walk.  Take a hot chocolate and head out to experience your neighborhood in a new and unique way.

Happy fall.  Embrace the seasonal change. Winter will soon be here, as many of us hunker down in our houses. The outside calls you- listen to mother nature and venture out just a little.  You won’t be sorry.

It was in person! Here are some insights from attendees at the, “Hire, Inspire, Catch Fire: How to Build and Keep a Great Workforce” event.

Paul E. Hook

Having attended a number of panel discussions over the years, what struck me most about this presentation was how truly diverse the panel was in how they handle employee engagement for each of their operations. From the large institution with 1,000+ employees to the young and hungry (and rapidly growing) software firm to the operation that can’t use remote work as a perk as its employees need to be onsite. So much to relate to for everyone in the audience, with numerous strategies and lessons to take back to our respective companies. Employee engagement isn’t just about letting people work from home, it’s about interaction with peers (professionally and socially), the appreciation for the effort we all put in, and shared goals that help us all see the fruits of our labor. Great input from the panel and from Mariam’s moderation style that warms up the room and everyone involved in the conversation.

Laura Mormile
Business Analyst, Project Management Office
Broadview Federal Credit Union

I thought the panel was informative and thought-provoking.   Organizations are seeing many challenges and opportunities centered around balancing the needs of the organization and being inclusive post-pandemic.  The discussion touched based on uniting remote workers and hybrid (or in-person) workers for one cohesive culture for the organization.  Jessie Zweigenthal with Jahnel Group described their organization’s culture as a buffet where you can participate in as much or as little of the culture as you like.  She also described how they ‘lead from within’, meaning they put resources and support behind initiatives driven by the employees.  I think an important takeaway was that culture should be created from within with the support of leadership.

Nicolle Beaury
Albany Business Review, Event Director
Co-chair of the Programming Committee

I really liked the common theme of the panelists discussing how employee satisfaction needs to be tied back to what the employees actually want (and not what the employer thinks they want). Jessie mentioned something about using the momentum of the employee’s desires for programs to help create a better environment. Finding a balance between what works best for each organization’s needs and allowing people to come to work with their authentic self is so important. Everyone’s circumstances, preferences, and accessibility to different programs and services will inform how an employee likes their work environment to be structured, and I loved hearing the panelists advocate for allowing for this diversity to flourish in their organizations.

“Hire, Inspire, Catch Fire: How to Build and Keep a Great Workforce”

In the current environment, finding great employees is a huge challenge; retaining them can be just as difficult. To succeed, employers need new approaches — and we’ve got them!

Join our panel of experts on September 20 to hear fresh insights on building and keeping your organization’s exceptional team needs. We’ll discuss strategies for creating a supportive and inclusive work culture that appeals to top talent, widening and diversifying your candidate pool, and for engaging employees, so they feel valued, appreciated, and committed for the long term. 

Sign up today to ignite your employee recruitment, engagement, and retention! 

Women in Business Spotlight-Helen Brooks, FedEx Corporation

From the desk of Karen Lombardo

One warm summer Monday evening, I had a marvelous dinner with Helen Brooks.
Helen is the Government Affairs Sr. State & Local Representative for FedEx
Corporation. She has been there for an eternity, and her success knows no bounds.
Helen is a woman of excellence in so many ways.
Let me start at the beginning. Helen and I go back to our kids’ middle school days. Our
daughters were in the same class, and so were our sons. Helen coached my son Jack
in basketball. She was fair-minded, encouraging, and tough when she needed to be. I
imagine these traits have significantly contributed to her success.
When I reached out to chat with Helen about this piece, we agreed to meet for
breakfast, but we could not get our schedules to sync. No problem. So, what do you do?
Meet for a martini and perhaps a beverage of choice. And so we did.
I was prepared with the usual questions, but they just didn’t seem to fit her. She is
engaging and funny, and we talked about everything from jobs to politics. An open
conversation uncovers the genuine person. Helen is passionate about her family,
friends, coworkers, and community.
What intrigued me during our conversation was that she does not take herself too
seriously, nor does she look back. This recipe makes for a strong leader and team
Her favorite quote is, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first
time.”- Maya Angelou.
Tell us something about you that few people know.
I am a sports nut, with football being my fave. I am a fantasy football aficionado and
have won a Fantasy Football championship amongst the group I previously played with.
I play now on ESPN, so I’m truly a leave church quickly on Sunday and park myself in
front of the TV to watch the NFL.

How do organizations like the Chamber help business leaders?  What are some
things we could be doing that you would like to see the Chamber build on?
There remains power in numbers. The Chamber helps in that regard as it is a
consolidation of businesses, and in many respects, it makes the voice stronger – gives it
more baritone, if you will.
In this regard, I think the Chamber can build on that voice by having more of a presence
in the Capital. I am a new member, but FedEx is a member of various Chamber-like
groups. There is something effective about representing hundreds of varied business
organizations in the halls of the Capital. I am not yet familiar with the intricacies of the

Capital Region Chamber, but I surmise it’s heavier on networking. That certainly has
value as well.