blue water woman--fall 2013

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Woman<br />

Black Belt<br />

Business Owner<br />

mary weir<br />


a slow business<br />

schedule in the<br />

summer allows<br />

editor/business<br />

owner patti<br />

samar to enjoy<br />

all the <strong>blue</strong><br />

<strong>water</strong> area has<br />

to offer, such as<br />

sailing on the<br />

great lakes.<br />

from the editor<br />

It was 10 years ago this past December when I quit my security-filled, salary-paying, paidvacation-providing<br />

job in Corporate America to venture into relatively unchartered territory<br />

as a full-time self-employed business owner.<br />

Not only did I quit my all-time favorite job (serving as marketing director at St. John River<br />

District Hospital) working for my all-time favorite boss (Frank Poma, who continues to serve<br />

as the hospital president), but I had no real back-up plan in the event that, well, I failed.<br />

While I had some money banked, it was more of a security blanket than a landing pad.<br />

So what in the heck was I thinking?<br />

I was thinking that I wanted something more than just a paycheck and security.<br />

This issue of Blue Water Woman is dedicated to the hard-working self-employed women in<br />

the Blue Water Area. A couple of stories are about women I have encountered whose stories I<br />

found compelling and a number of stories are dedicated to those women who have regularly<br />

advertised in Blue Water Woman since its first year of inception. I am so grateful for their<br />

advertising support. Without them, there would be no Blue Water Woman magazine. I’ve<br />

enjoyed getting to know all of them over the past two years and am proud to showcase them<br />

in this issue of the magazine.<br />

So why work for yourself? For me, it was about tradeoffs. First, I am afforded an incredibly<br />

flexible work schedule that has changed my life dramatically. A year ago, I married a most<br />

incredible man…who lives 500 miles away from Port Huron. He resides in my hometown<br />

in the Upper Peninsula and we’ve been friends for almost 30 years. Would I have started<br />

dating a man so many miles away if I had just a limited amount of vacation time dictated<br />

by Corporate America? Maybe, maybe not, but building a relationship would have been<br />

much more difficult if one of us didn’t have the flexibility of self-employment. I can, and do,<br />

regularly work from his home.<br />

Such flexibility is the upside of self-employment. The downsides include working many<br />

more hours than I ever did working for someone else. In my last two “real” jobs, I was a<br />

salaried director of a department and, depending on the work at hand, regularly found myself<br />

working 50-hour (or more) work weeks.<br />

Self-employment has shown me that a 50-hour work week would feel like a vacation during<br />

certain times of the year. My <strong>fall</strong> and winter months are generally the busiest and I often work<br />

seven days a week and many of those days are spent working well into the late night hours.<br />

The flip side is that business is slower during the summer months, so I am able to take a lot<br />

of time off and I am able to enjoy the very best of both Michigan peninsulas.<br />

But: less business also equals less income. Cash flow is a constant concern for small business<br />

owners. There are months when I tell myself it would be so much easier to once again get a<br />

job with a steady, reliable paycheck and paid vacation. But the thought of giving up my yearround<br />

work wardrobe of flip flops and <strong>blue</strong> jeans and once again dressing up in suits and heels<br />

Every. Single. Day. kind of makes my stomach feel a little queasy. I’m probably not suited for<br />

that life ever again for a wide variety of reasons.<br />

The fact of the matter is I’m free-spirited and kind of a loner at heart. Self-employment<br />

feeds both of those facets of my being. And nothing beats wearing flip flops to work in<br />

January.<br />

content<br />

passions<br />

Mary Weir 4<br />

professions<br />

SaraThomas 6<br />

Vickie Burgett 6<br />

Cathy Wilkinson 7<br />

Kim Judge & Tammy Hutchinson 7<br />

Sonja Schunk 8<br />

Trista Bourdeau 8<br />

volume 3, number 3 <strong>fall</strong> <strong>2013</strong><br />

Blue Water Woman is published quarterly by The Write Company,<br />

3155 Armour Street, Port Huron, MI 48060. Circulation 7,500.<br />

Editor & Publisher: Patti Samar, owner, The Write Company<br />

Advertising: Patti Samar at 810-987-1256 or pjsamar@aol.com<br />

Subscriptions: To receive Blue Water Woman at home, mail $25 to:<br />

Blue Water Woman, 3155 Armour Street, Port Huron, MI 48060<br />

News releases can be emailed to pjsamar@aol.com<br />

Questions or comments?<br />

Call Blue Water Woman at 810-987-1256<br />

Mission: Blue Water Woman is the premiere publication<br />

for women living, working and playing<br />

in the Blue Water Area of Michigan.<br />

Its stories and features are written and designed<br />

to be inspriational, motivational and encouraging.<br />

www.BlueWaterWoman.com<br />

© Blue Water Woman is the property<br />

of Patti Samar of The Write Company<br />

The Write Company is a writing, graphic design and marketing<br />

consultation firm. View our online portfolio at:<br />

www.TheWriteCompany.net<br />

Patti Samar<br />

Editor & Publisher<br />

Blue Water Woman<br />

2 <strong>fall</strong> <strong>2013</strong> BlueWaterWoman.com

<strong>fall</strong> <strong>2013</strong> BlueWaterWoman.com 3

passion<br />

mary weir, port huron<br />

Strong-willed<br />

determination<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

4 <strong>fall</strong> <strong>2013</strong> BlueWaterWoman.com<br />

JJust inside the front entrance of the PKSA Karate School in<br />

downtown Port Huron there hangs a pair of sparkly ruby red slippers<br />

just like Dorothy wore in the Wizard of Oz.<br />

In the movie, Dorothy thought the ruby red slippers were magical,<br />

but in the end, she discovered they were just another pair of shoes and<br />

everything she accomplished came about as a result of her own will and<br />

hard work.<br />

The ruby red slippers hang in the karate studio as a daily reminder to<br />

Mary Weir, co-owner of the karate school, and to all of her students,<br />

that just as Dorothy discovered, everyone has exactly what they need<br />

in life inside of them. Accomplishing goals is just a matter of exercising<br />

personal will.<br />

Weir is no stranger to accomplishing goals as a result of strong-willed<br />

determination. Just a few short years ago, she and her husband might<br />

have laughed if someone had suggested they would someday own a<br />

karate school.<br />

But what started as a family-oriented goal turned into a business<br />

opportunity that began when her son, then just nine-years-old,<br />

expressed an interest in taking a six-week karate class. Weir and<br />

her husband thought it would be good for him to get involved in a<br />

confidence-building activity, so they enrolled him. Parents were allowed<br />

to learn alongside their children, and Weir became hooked.<br />

“I looked at my husband and said, ‘What if we did this and we got<br />

our black belts as a family? That would be cool,’” she said.<br />

Almost immediately, Weir, her husband Mike, and their son and<br />

daughter were all enrolled in karate and on their way to earning black<br />

belts. That eventually led to Weir and her husband opening their Port<br />

Huron and St. Clair karate studios, PKSA, which is a karate school<br />

franchise.<br />

Deciding to start the business was not difficult because Weir knew she<br />

had the passion for karate and a strong desire to teach others all that she<br />

had learned from it. Additionally, as a franchise, PKSA –Professional<br />

Karate Schools of America – provided a structure that helped the<br />

business establish itself in the community slowly, which allowed Weir<br />

and her husband/business partner to learn about running the business.<br />

“He’s the best person I’ve ever known in my entire life,” Weir said of<br />

her husband, “but working together has been the biggest challenge of<br />

our marriage. But there’s nobody else I would rather do this with.”<br />

Weir, who met her husband while both were enlisted in the Air<br />

Force, adapted well to the structure provided by the study of karate and<br />

found she enjoyed teaching others about the martial arts in a positive<br />

environment that also provided the usefulness of self protection.<br />

“Watching their sense of accomplishment is just unbelievable,” said<br />

Weir of her students. “I really enjoy helping people feel safe. My whole<br />

passion is I want to be safe myself and I want my family to be safe and I<br />

want to teach others to be safe.<br />

“My goal is this: I want every person with ill will or bad intentions to<br />

think twice before trying to hurt someone because the person they are<br />

targeting might know karate.”

award-winning writing & design work.<br />

advertising design & strategy.<br />

publication/newsletter design. writing & editing. graphic design.<br />

website design.<br />

patti samar. owner.<br />

(Also Editor & Publisher of Blue Water Woman)<br />

810. 987. 1256 www.thewritecompany.net<br />

“like” us on Facebook & view our online portfolio on our website!<br />

<strong>fall</strong> <strong>2013</strong> BlueWaterWoman.com 5

Healthy habits<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

Sara Thomas wants to help women become healthy.<br />

As the owner and operator of a Curves franchise located in Fort<br />

Gratiot, Thomas has helped numerous clients over the years.<br />

“I love the clientele I have,” said Thomas. “We are a very social<br />

environment and we’re all here for the same reasons: to be fit and<br />

healthy.”<br />

A mom to two children and two dogs, Thomas enjoys the flexible<br />

schedule that self-employment brings. “I have a very flexible schedule<br />

because I have a great staff,” she said.<br />

Thomas worked for other businesses in the fitness industry prior to<br />

owning her Curves franchise.<br />

“I found there was a market for this type of clientele,” she said,<br />

noting that Curves is a program designed to provide women with a<br />

comfortable workout environment.<br />

Her advice to other women interested in starting a business of their<br />

own is to follow their passion.<br />

“Follow your heart and make sure you are passionate about your<br />

work,” she said. “Your heart has to be in the business.”<br />

The Curves franchise recently partnered with the Cleveland Clinic<br />

to design a weight loss program for Curves members. “We are not<br />

just a fitness center anymore; we are a weight loss center,” she said,<br />

noting that members are provided with a nutritional program to help<br />

them meet their weight loss goals.<br />

“I am not in this business to become wealthy,” she said. “I am in<br />

this to help women become healthy in a comfortable environment.<br />

Helping women become healthy is important to me.”<br />

Believing in<br />

downtown<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

6 <strong>fall</strong> <strong>2013</strong> BlueWaterWoman.com<br />

Vickie Burgett is a Port Huron gal through and through. That<br />

is why, for more than a decade, she has operated her business,<br />

Victoria’s Hair and Tanning Studio, in downtown Port Huron.<br />

“I like being downtown,” said Burgett. “I love the people walking<br />

by and I love my neighbors. I love to look out the window and see<br />

the people.”<br />

Burgett said self-employment has provided her with a lot of<br />

flexibility in her life, though, as with many small businesses, she<br />

noted that the hours can be long. “As the owner of the business,<br />

you put in more hours, but it is still flexible.<br />

“Working for yourself is great if you are not worried about<br />

money, but as a female, you grow more by working with other<br />

women and you grow as a human being,” she said.<br />

Her advice to those thinking about starting a business is “just do<br />

it. If you aren’t afraid of your finances, it’s the best thing you can<br />

do for yourself.”<br />

Victoria’s offers hair and nail services to both men and women,<br />

and tanning. “We are a full service salon,” said Burgett.<br />

A lifelong resident of Port Huron, Burgett enjoys the great things<br />

she sees happening in the community. “I believe in Port Huron.<br />

It’s just where my heart is.”

Achieving<br />

financial goals<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

Ask Cathy Wilkinson what she would do if she could do anything<br />

else for a living and here is the answer: “Nothing. This is it. I’m very<br />

blessed. I feel we do a very good job for our clients and we help them<br />

achieve their goals.”<br />

As a self-employed Edward Jones financial advisor, Wilkinson<br />

enjoys the benefits of being an entrepreneur with the support<br />

provided by the parent company.<br />

“Edward Jones offers an entrepreneurial environment and all of<br />

the tools we need to service our clients,” she said. “I have always<br />

been very goal-oriented and I feel I have the self-discipline and the<br />

initiative needed to be self-employed.”<br />

Key to Wilkinson’s success is her long-time assistant, Kim Petho.<br />

The two have worked together almost 20 years.<br />

A world traveler in her spare time – she has visited the<br />

Mediterranean, France, Hawaii and Alaska, among other<br />

destinations – Wilkinson says she loves getting up in the morning<br />

and going to work each day. “I help people manage their wealth<br />

and with Edward Jones, I can take my clients in the direction that<br />

best suits their needs, whether that is investing, working toward<br />

retirement, or spending in retirement.<br />

“I love helping clients achieve their goals.”<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

Fateful friendship<br />

It must have been fate.<br />

Just a few years ago, Tammy Hutchinson and Kim Judge were both<br />

working in advertising sales for different print publications. Both were<br />

originally from Sanilac County. Both lived in the same condominium<br />

complex and both were single and contemplating new careers.<br />

And they didn’t know each other.<br />

Once the two met, though, they realized there was a comfortable<br />

chemistry between them and Hutchinson, who took the plunge into<br />

the world of insurance sales at the urging of her stepfather, convinced<br />

Judge to do the same in a shared office space.<br />

Now, each is an independent agent for Farm Bureau Insurance. As<br />

independent agents, both enjoy the flexibility self-employment brings,<br />

but both acknowledge that working for themselves entails long hours<br />

and hard work.<br />

“I started with nothing, knocking on doors and pounding the<br />

pavement,” said Hutchinson.<br />

“There is a preconceived notion that insurance agents just go<br />

golfing and have a lot of money,” said Judge with a laugh. However,<br />

Judge does acknowledge that networking is key to her success. “It<br />

takes so much time to get your name out there,” she said. “You’ve<br />

got to get to know people and it takes time to build that trust. It’s so<br />

important.”<br />

Though the hours may be long, both women acknowledge that<br />

selling insurance brings personal satisfaction and gratification, too.<br />

“When I was selling ads, I didn’t feel a lot of gratitude,” said<br />

Hutchinson. “I wanted to do something to feel like I was making a<br />

difference and helping people in their lives.”<br />

<strong>fall</strong> <strong>2013</strong> BlueWaterWoman.com 7

Accidental owner<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

Sometimes, Sonja Schunk is still surprised – and rightfully proud<br />

–of the fact that she owns her own business, Sonja’s Hair Salon, in<br />

St. Clair.<br />

“Someone will say, ‘You own your own salon!’ and I’ll say, ‘I do,<br />

don’t I?’” she said with a laugh.<br />

When she became a cosmetologist, it wasn’t her intention to<br />

establish her own business, but eventually it appeared to be fate.<br />

“At the salons where I worked, I would just take charge of stuff<br />

anyway,” she said. Now, after working for herself for 10 years, she<br />

cannot imagine it any other way. She has learned a lot along the way.<br />

“It is a lot of work to be able to organize everything, such as<br />

supplies needed,” she said. “I would recommend women who<br />

are starting a business start small and grow into it and do a lot of<br />

research first. You need to learn everything, like how a cash register<br />

works and how money is handled, and maintaining supplies and<br />

figuring out what works and what doesn’t.<br />

“And, if something breaks, who is going to fix it?”<br />

Having great employees has helped her business grow and thrive,<br />

as well.<br />

“Everybody works together, so it’s not like I have to be ‘the boss’,”<br />

she said. “I really appreciate my employees and my clients.”<br />

And what keeps her work life interesting after all of these years?<br />

“I think it is putting a smile on someone’s face, whether it is a<br />

totally different look or something they are just totally ecstatic<br />

about,” she said. “That is rewarding.”<br />

8 <strong>fall</strong> <strong>2013</strong> BlueWaterWoman.com<br />

Family tradition<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

Even if she didn’t know it right away, Trista Bourdeau Kolcz was<br />

destined to go into the family business.<br />

As the owner/manager of the Blue Water Area branch of her family<br />

insurance business, Al Bourdeau Insurance Agency, Kolcz has worked<br />

in the family business in some capacity since 1986 when she first<br />

started going to the office after school to file.<br />

Established in 1921, the Bordeau agency is one of the largest<br />

independent insurance agencies in the state of Michigan. The<br />

business has maintained a strong family presence, with Kolcz and her<br />

cousins and uncles operating all of the branches.<br />

“We’re all very close and everyone is just very closely connected,”<br />

said Kolcz. “We all spend a lot of the holidays together and we get<br />

together as often as possible.”<br />

And business mixes well with pleasure?<br />

“It just kind of gels,” she said. “We very much promote family<br />

within the business. It is just a strong point of the agency. It just<br />

seems to really work well.<br />

“There are a lot of advantages to owning your own business,” she<br />

said. “You get more time to prioritize your own life.” She noted that<br />

having that flexibility and ability to create her own schedule has been<br />

helpful as she raised a family – she and her husband, Brad, have four<br />

children.<br />

She also knows her success is not an individual accomplishment and<br />

she is appreciate of the great employees who work with her every day.<br />

“We have a great team,” she said. “We really do have great<br />

employees. We’ve been really fortunate for the quality of employees<br />

that we have been able to attract.”

<strong>fall</strong> <strong>2013</strong> BlueWaterWoman.com 9

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