“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” MAYA ANGELO
We think you should know the following seven women leaders. They come from all industries and have broken the glass ceilings with innovation, persistence, and dedication. Columbus is fortunate to have such strong female leadership. Research shows that women lead with strength and sensitivity. This style of leadership has grown because women can set high expectations while personally helping motivate their teams.
President of American Electric Power Foundation and Vice President of Corporate Philanthropy and Community Engagement
Philanthropy, volunteerism and supporting those in need run deep in Janelle Coleman’s nature. She has channeled this passion for helping others throughout her entire career—and most recently at AEP as their Foundation President and Vice President of Corporate Philanthropy and Community Engagement.
Janelle was born and raised in a predominately black neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, with her two older brothers. Her mom was a switchboard operator and receptionist at Ohio Bell, and her dad was a steel worker at Ford Motor Company.
Tragically, her dad passed away suddenly from a heart attack when he was 37, and at only 11 years old, Janelle’s life was changed forever.
“We went from being a working-class family to poor overnight,” Janelle says. “My mom ended up being a young widow of three kids, and really threw herself into raising us. She struggled mightily to make sure we had what we needed, but it was tough.”
The next two years were financially challenging. They didn’t know where their next meal was going to come from, and they often had one or more utilities disconnected at the same time.
“Eventually my mom knitted things together as most moms do, and we moved from Cleveland to Euclid, which is a suburb of Cleveland.” Janelle says.
Although financial hurdles continued off and on, she and her brothers thrived in Euclid. She played sports, was involved in school activities and had a lot of friends. As she considered her future, she was drawn to journalism. Her English teacher suggested the field of broadcast journalism.
“I had never thought about being on television,” Janelle says. “I think partly because I didn’t see a whole lot of people who looked like me in broadcast roles at that time.”
After graduating from Euclid High School in 1990, she attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
She applied for Pell grants, financial aid, and loans to cover her education, but she was not able to see the campus before move-in day. In the fall of 1990, her mom borrowed their landlord’s car and the young girl who had rarely been outside of Cleveland was now embarking on a new adventure.
Over the next four years, Janelle was active on Ohio University’s campus. She was a resident assistant, joined a sorority, and secured a public relations internship with L Brands. They offered her a full-time job as a Public Relations Specialist after graduation.
“I went directly from Athens to Columbus,” Janelle says. The job exposed her to the world of reputation management and public relations, but she gravitated to the community relations work.
After nearly three years at L Brands, Janelle was offered a job as Project Researcher for the United Way of Central Ohio. After a few short months she moved into the frontline fundraising role of Senior Manager of Leadership Giving.
“That gave me a bird’s-eye view to what fundraising really looked like and what it took to fundraise the kind of things people care about,” Janelle says. “It helped round out the community relations and philanthropic piece of my skill set.”
But after a few years, Janelle felt homesick for Cleveland. She was recruited to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District as their Executive Assistant to the Chief Academic Officer in 2000.
“It was one of the most interesting jobs I’ve had, really trying to understand all of the nuances and layers that play into a student being successful, especially a student in a large urban district.” Janelle says.
Columbus lured her back again in 2001, this time for a Director of Development role at The Ohio State University in charge of need-based scholarships across the whole university.
“I was a recipient of need-based scholarships coming out of high school. So that was something that resonated with me,” Janelle says.
She soon became the Development Officer for OSU’s College of Humanities, adding to the frontline fundraising skills that she felt so passionate about.
In 2004, she was recruited to the Community Shelter Board as their Director of Communications and Development.
“It was really important, emotionally-taxing work, because you’re dealing with people who are experiencing homelessness for no fault of their own, and the chronic homeless population,” she says.
From there, Janelle accepted a position back in the public education space for about a year, where she served as the Director of Organizational Advancement at Project GRAD Columbus. However, L Brands quickly snatched her up again. She was recruited for the Manager of Leadership Giving Programs position, and eventually was promoted to Vice President of Community Relations, and the President of L Brands Foundation.
Over the next 12 years, she was responsible for all things related to corporate citizenship, employee community engagement and led all of their campaigns, including the United Way, Komen Race for the Cure, Wexner Center for the Arts, and their first Pelotonia campaign. During her tenure, L Brands became the single largest corporate fundraiser for The James, with the largest group of riders and volunteers raising around $8 million dollars.
In 2019, Janelle had the opportunity to lead across functions for what she describes as the largest cultural institution in our community: the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. She served as the Executive Vice President of External Affairs, responsible for marketing, communications, philanthropy, community engagement, and government affairs.
She was fulfilled at the zoo and wasn’t looking for a new job, but as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the rise of social justice causes like the Black Lives Matter movement (in response to George Floyd’s murder) garnered a national presence, Janelle began wondering if she was where she was supposed to be. Around that same time, the AEP Foundation President—and a colleague of hers—told her he was retiring and suggested she apply for the job. So she did. And she got it.
As President of the AEP Foundation and Vice President of Corporate Philanthropy and Community Engagement, Janelle oversees the coordination of giving for AEP and all of their operating companies across the nation. She is responsible for community engagement, volunteerism, giving campaigns, and the Foundation’s signature programs including Credits Count, a program which helps under-served middle school students explore and pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers.
The people she works with inspire her.
“There are so many people doing so many good things to help other people, I get to see that every day, and talk about it every day.” Janelle says.
Only a few months into her new role, Janelle strives to support the community where they need it the most, which includes STEM education, environment, housing and food insecurities, and working with nonprofit partners to remove barriers related to systemic racism and moving social and racial justice forward.
Janelle’s commitment to helping others doesn’t end when her workday is over. She is eight years into her nine-year appointment as an Ohio University board member is currently Chair of the Board. She is Chair-Elect of YWCA Columbus, Chair-Elect for Experience Columbus and President of KIPP Columbus Foundation.
Janelle has been married to her best friend, former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, for five years. In normal times they love to travel and spend time in the community. She has three grown stepchildren, a niece who is a senior at Grandview Heights High School and a 14-year-old nephew whom she spends a lot of time with. She has two dogs, a Labradoodle named Mr. Milo and a Goldendoodle named Atticus, and a great group of girlfriends who keep her very busy.
She has enjoyed being a part of the vibrant, innovate community of Columbus, but acknowledges that her upbringing in Cleveland and the hardship her family faced has led her to where she is today. While she’s left her imprint on a number of companies, non-profits and educational systems, she remains passionate about one thing: To do everything in her power to remove barriers for others—especially systemic ones—so they can have a chance at a fulfilling life.
CEO of Caster Connection
With music in her heart, Sally Hughes, Founder and CEO of Caster Connection, Inc., set out into the world with the hopes and dreams of pursuing a musical career. After graduating from high school, where she regularly performed in various musical programs, Sally attended Otterbein University majoring in music. Uncertain of what her profession would be after completing this program, she decided to transition and headed a bit Southeast to Ohio University where she received her Bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in Spanish. While at Ohio University, Sally participated in many extracurricular musical activities to satisfy her craving for the art.
Music still weighed heavily on her heart and she wasn’t ready for that chapter to end. After graduation, Sally moved to Montana where she sang at several of the state’s large resorts. Living at Yellowstone National Park was an experience she will never forget.
With some experience under her belt, she took the leap and headed to California. Her journey began in San Diego. For nine months, Sally performed in various clubs. She was invited to perform with a man named, Kim Gage who was very interested in her musical style. Feeling like there was a solid foundation for music, they decided to head to Los Angeles to enter a songwriter showcase. Lodging wasn’t an issue, since Gage’s mother lived in Los Angeles and they were welcome to crash there. Unknown to Sally, Kim Gage’s mother was Esther Williams! Yes, the talented swimmer and actress. When they arrived in Los Angeles, entered the gated community in Beverly Hills, Hughes knew things were about to change.
Singing her acoustic version of James Taylor’s “Carolina on my Mind,” Sally sat on Ms. Williams diving board hovering over her pool. Ms. Williams became instrumental in giving Sally the confidence she needed to keep pursuing her passion for music. For the next six years, Hughes performed around Los Angeles. “It was a fun, but tough life,” says Hughes. Having made a good living performing, Hughes felt it was time to return to Ohio and explore the next phase of her journey. She returned to the Cleveland area and solicited the advice of her father as to where to go next.
Sally’s father was the owner of a school equipment supply business. Recognizing the need for chair caster replacement, Hughes set out on her own armed with a grocery bag full of casters and stems and fishing tackle box for her tools. She would spend her days stopping into local businesses, some with appointments and some without. “I would tell the customers that if they buy them today, I’ll put them on for you,” adds Sally. “One particular stop stands out to me still to this day. I was in a large conference room in a law firm. I was replacing an entire room full of casters on their chairs. Still dressed professionally, my shoes were on one side of the conference room and my tools were all over the place. A group of young lawyers came into the conference room to have a meeting. I was mortified! I had a choice to make, I could finish the project or leave the embarrassing situation. I stayed. Made $800 and learned a very important lesson about owning what you set out to do.” Sally was out on the road every day selling and installing casters and playing piano and singing in local clubs in the evening.
As luck would have it, Sally walked into an industrial warehouse. They didn’t require any chair casters but were having issues finding industrial wheels. After some research, Sally found a manufacturer that had a sale representative in Flint, Michigan. They were also looking to add a sales representative in the Cleveland area. It was a great fit for her to expand her business as an independent contractor for industrial casters. Here Sally met Jack Van Tine. He took her under his wing, helping her to understand the business of industrial casters. Sally’s business grew and she started out storing her inventory in a small corner of her father’s warehouse space.
Recognizing that there was more to casters and that ergonomics played a major role in the caster industry. Caster wheel material became an important function Sally began to focus on. In 1987, Sally started Caster Connection, Inc., as a distribution company. She learned that one of her major clients was experiencing injuries to their employees’ shoulders and backs and their health care claims were surging. Her current manufacturer couldn’t support a change in how the casters functioned or meet lower pricing demands. The threat of losing her biggest client set Sally down the path of finding a solution to an improved product at competitive pricing.
Sally traveled the world meeting manufacturers and bringing back products to test. “I got really good at this because I love it,” adds Sally. “I love my clients and my employees and want them all to be successful.” Sally searched until she was satisfied with the product and her client was thrilled with how the product met their needs.
Sally credits much of her success to the mentors she has had in her life. Her father was her first, great mentor. He had polio as a child and walked with a limp. This never held him back. It made him work harder and push further. Esther Williams taught her to have confidence in herself and to keep pushing to achieve your dreams. Jack Van Tine believed in her and always had her best interests at heart.
Throughout her journey, Sally has sought out the advice of mentors to help her overcome situations in her company and to give her the confidence she needed to handle a situation or take the business to the next level. “I surround myself with people who are smarter than me” Hughes adds. “People want others to succeed and I always seek out those that have excelled in an area that I felt weak in.”
Sally spends time mentoring others and is always seeking out those in the community that can mentor her through change. “Mentoring reminds me of what a long and fascinating journey it has been,” says Sally. “There were super highs and super lows and I enjoy helping others avoid some of the same pitfalls.”
Sally has been awarded much praise for her success in business. To name a few, Sally is the recipient of the Enterprising Women of the Year Award, the Small Business Association Small Business Person of the Year for the State of Ohio Award and the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Visionary Award. She is a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization and the Women’s Presidents’ Organization.
In addition to her mentoring in our community, she has led positions with the Ohio Consumer Advisory Council, The American Red Cross and Otterbein Women and Leadership Advisory Council.
Sally has been married to her husband, John, for 24 years. They have a daughter, Gwen, who is a senior at Otterbein University. She enjoys many activities, including playing golf, swimming, playing the piano and taking spin classes. Their family enjoys time in Florida and lots of sunshine!
As for the future of Caster Connection Inc., Sally envisions growth. “There are reasons why we do business with the biggest and most successful businesses in the world. We have confidence in our products and the people that we can accomplish anything,” adds Sally. “I have made a lot of mistakes; my employees make mistakes and I am always reminded that that is how we learn and grow.”
Sandy Doyle Ahern
President of EMH&T
Growing up on the East Coast, Sandy Doyle Ahern, President of EMH&T, was accustomed to living in a busy environment and having the ease of traveling to and from nearby cities. She graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in biology and was focused on animals and the environment. She knew she wanted to attend graduate school right away and began exploring universities.
During her search, she was referred to Miami University, so Sandy hopped in the car and took a road trip to Oxford, Ohio. Her visit set the course of permanent move to Ohio when she accepted an offer to enter the master’s program that weekend. An internship required for her master’s degree led her to Columbus in 1993 where she thought she would be a temporary resident. That was 28 years ago.
With hard work and a strong understanding of the industry, in 1997 Sandy joined EMH&T, a multi-disciplined consulting firm offering the full-spectrum of civil engineering, surveying, planning and environmental compliance services. She was hired to open the company’s environmental division, which specializes in wetland and stream assessments and permitting, ecological restoration, environmental site assessments and regulatory compliance. Sandy ran this division for nine years.
Shortly after EMH&T moved their headquarters in 2005, Sandy was asked by EMH&T’s leadership to oversee the municipal engineering group. Municipal Engineering involves planning and design of public infrastructure including utilities and roadways. In 2006, Sandy was offered the opportunity to become a partner in the business.
“This journey has been unexpected,” says Sandy. “From getting my degrees in science and enjoying field work to being involved in some very complicated projects, I learned to take risks and operate outside of my comfort zone early in my career.”
EMH&T was founded in 1926 by Gordon E. Evans as a small land surveying firm in Gahanna, Ohio, to support the growing local development market. Today, their focus is 50% public and 50% private work. Sandy was the first female manager for the company. “This is a company where professional growth is encouraged,” says Sandy. “There is so much support for one another. Everyone will stop what they are doing to help someone out.” EMH&T remains a privately held company, where ownership has transferred internally since its inception. Sandy was named president in 2012 and is the first female president in the company’s history.
Sandy has worked diligently to bring together the development and civic communities to identify and breakdown obstacles contributing to Central Ohio’s affordable housing shortage. As an advocate for policy change, she recognizes that there is a gap in housing and is more aware of the constraints and challenges because of her role at EMH&T.
Her professional and community passions often intersect, which is why Sandy is able to make such a positive impact in both roles. “Homelessness in our community rose significantly during the recession of 2008,” adds Sandy. “The numbers never went down. Our focus now needs to be changing policy, cost, opportunity and the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) stigma for all kinds of housing.”
Columbus is a growing, dynamic city and one of the things that comes with that making sure we aren’t leaving anyone behind. “The best opportunities aren’t readily available to everyone,” Sandy says. As part of the Franklin County Innovation Center, the blueprint for reducing poverty, Sandy is part of a team looking to change the trajectory of those impacted by poverty in the community. Data around healthcare, housing, transportation, etc., all provide information that can help them direct activities toward that goal.
Sandy is a board member for YWCA Columbus, whose mission is Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women and Promoting Peace, Justice, Freedom and Dignity for All. “The biggest gift I have received being a part of the YWCA is being surrounded by like-minded women with the same goals who get things done,” says Sandy. She is part of the Mayor’s Economic Resiliency & Recovery Committee and is helping to support the region in rebuilding itself post-pandemic. Additionally, she serves on the board of the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation, the Nature Conservancy of Ohio and the Columbus Partnership.
As an influencer, mentor and leader, Sandy brought together a powerful group of women in Columbus called the Edge Sisters. This group is filled with female leaders in our community that are committed to pushing for equity, change and positivity.
All of this outstanding community service has not gone unrecognized. Sandy was the 2020 Voice & Vision Award Recipient for Homeport, whose mission is to create strong communities by developing quality, affordable homes on a cornerstone of dignity, security and opportunity. She was also inducted as a 2020 Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame Laureate and was honored by Columbus CEO Magazine as a 2020 CEO of the Year award winner.
Family is the other constant and important focus in her life. Sandy has been married to her husband, Michael, for 25 years. They have two daughters, Sasha and Aislinn. As a family, they love to travel. “Our family trips are often planned around seeing the world and experiencing how other people live,” says Sandy. Experiences are vital to Sandy and her family and they are eager to return to their purposeful travel. She also enjoys reading and catching up with her family each night at dinner.
“Everything I do comes from a place of gratitude. I work for a great company with great clients. There is so much opportunity in the region. I have been able to see what is great in Columbus, which is why I never left and my eyes have been opened to all that is not accessible to everyone. We need to change the trajectory of opportunity for everyone in our community and I believe we can do it,” notes Sandy.
Sandy strongly believes that local impact can be made if you try and put the energy and time into it. “I love the work I do at EMH&T and I love our community. I am grateful for all of my experiences and opportunities.”
CEO of Corna Kokosing
Successfully navigating through the world of construction is what Lori Gillett, CEO of Corna Kokosing, has experienced her entire life. Corna Kokosing (CK) is owned by the Burgett family, the same family that owns Kokosing Construction. 70 years ago, Lori’s grandfather, Bill Burgett, founded this family-owned construction company in Knox County, Ohio. The family has maintained 100% ownership since its inception. Today, there are multiple businesses, all in the construction realm, and all owned and operated by the Burgett family lineage.
Lori grew up in Fredericktown, Ohio, less than a mile away from the founding company’s headquarters. With construction equipment as her playground, she spent weekends and summers at the family business. Every Saturday night, the family would head out to Mt. Vernon for dinner, but first they would stop to check on the construction sites.
“My first paycheck was from the family business in the summer of 6th or 7th grade,” recalls Lori. “I worked in accounting. My aunt had me file invoices, shred documents and copy blueprints.” By the time she was in high school, Lori was assisting in the works department or in the “yard,” where equipment is kept.
Lori is proud to have gained experience working in numerous areas of the family’s construction business. She spent one summer sewing concrete blankets. These are not your average throw blankets – they are massive, heavy-duty blankets placed on top of concrete to protect it from the elements. “I grew up with a tough work ethic and it was instilled in me at a very early age,” adds Lori.
After graduating from high school, Lori attended Ohio Northern University. At first, she wasn’t sure where she wanted to go to college or what course of study she wanted to focus on. She felt comfortable at Ohio Northern because of its rural setting and smaller campus size. Lori initially considered applying to the general business program but during her admissions meeting, it was suggested to her based on her exemplary high school transcripts (which included advanced placement calculus), that she give engineering a try. Based on that recommendation and the fact that the engineering credits would be applied towards a business degree if she changed her mind, Lori enrolled in the civil engineering program and never looked back.
Throughout college, Lori continued to work at the family business, except one summer, when she ventured out to gain experience with another company. This decision was supported by her family and offered her great insight. After she graduated from Ohio Northern University, Lori interviewed at her family’s construction company in several of their business units and accepted a position in their highway division.
Lori has since held a significant number of roles within the Kokosing family of companies, including laborer, foreman, project engineer, estimator, business development lead, vice president of a number of divisions and President of multiple companies. One of her favorite roles included serving on the strategy team responsible for acquiring new firms, and integrating them into the existing business model.
Lori’s current role as CEO began in the summer of 2019. Lori is one of many third-generation family members working for the family business today. Her brother and her cousin are CEOs of the other businesses owned by the Burgett family.
“It has been a lot of hard work to prepare me for my current role,” adds Lori. “I can’t even count the number of people that have mentored me within the company to get me to this point in my career.” In this predominantly male industry, Lori credits the men who served as role models throughout her journey. In the engineering program at Ohio Northern University, the all-male faculty guided and empowered her. Throughout her career, her male team members coached and supported her.
Later in her career, Lori found that she needed additional mentorship and looked to females outside of the company. She created her own personal board of advisors consisting of men and women both inside and outside the construction industry. “I am grateful for that coaching and support and I don’t know what I would have done without it,” says Lori. “Sometimes it’s easier to listen to someone outside of the situation that I have built trust with.”
Lori is proud of the fact that CK employs nearly 40% of females in professional roles. They continue to mentor and promote women throughout the business. A few years ago, Lori and a female colleague attended a seminar on diversity, and decided they couldn’t leave the session without determining an accountability plan to go forward. “We stood at a table at the conference and committed to a follow-up appointment with each other,” recalls Lori. “We were giving ourselves time to think through what we heard, where we were in the company, identify gaps and put a plan in action.” From that, WISE (Women’s Ideas and Strategies Exchange program) was born.
“The point of this program is coaches and mentees working together, one-on-one and utilizing the women in the company as coaches,” says Lori. “We created programs, but let those attending determine what they want to work on. Topics are voted on and we build the topics as we go. We build the program after we get the feedback from the attendees and then bring in speakers to facilitate discussion,” she adds. The next step in the current program is a capstone project to foster a collaborative environment that builds rapport with others in the company. “Once the team proposes a solution, one of the senior-level executives becomes a sponsor and helps put the tasks into action. Think Shark Tank! This is part of our leadership program and one of the most fun initiatives within the company.”
The third-generation of the Burgett family has been working in the companies for about three decades, and there is an internal university that trains the next generation. “About ten years ago, we knew we needed to progress on the spectrum from being a family business to becoming a business family,” notes Lori. “We decided to bring in an advisory board that was comprised of some non-family, internal and external directors. We value their input, how they push, challenge and drive the businesses and bring outside expertise on a different level. It is crucial for us to have accountability, a fresh strategic perspective and to be able to think outside of the box.” The advisory board advanced to a comprehensive board of directors a few years ago. The family has two boards that are over the various companies they own. The development of these boards is a very significant step in the evolution of this family business.
Lori is exceptionally passionate about workforce development, mentoring and developing young people. Igniting the curiosity for STEM and construction are essential for future generations. “We need to foster passion and feed it along the way,” says Lori. As an appointee of Governor Mike DeWine’s executive workforce board, Lori appreciates this recognition as a central Ohio employer. “This board truly cares about Ohioans and focuses on opportunities regardless if the path includes college, technical school or entering the workforce directly from high school or later in your career. There is an opportunity to make a big impact,” says Lori.
Lori’s passion for STEM was fueled when she met Tammy Wharton, President and CEO of Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland. Lori serves as co-chair of the Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland dream big initiative and is proud to have CK support their new STEM leadership campus. “Building immersive STEM and leadership programs to foster self-confidence in women and girls, all while igniting passion for STEM at a young age will be the largest leadership development created by girls for girls!” exclaims Lori.
Lori recently collaborated with Nicole Dunn, President of Flying Horse Farms. After touring their facility, she knew that she personally wanted to get involved and thought CK could have a significant role in expanding their already amazing facility. She and the team members at CK are committing time and expertise in putting together a master plan to help the facility and camp excel into the future.
Lori is married to Morgan and has two daughters (ages 3 and 12), and a rescue dog, Burny. Her husband and family are amazingly supportive of her and her role at CK. They love to play and have fun together, bake on the weekends and travel when they can.
“I try to be present in the evenings, it is important to my family and me,” adds Lori.
Lori’s year-and-a-half in her new role as CEO has been a whirlwind. She has enjoyed every second of it, even the challenges presented by COVID-19. “It strengthened myself and my team, we learned to make educated decisions and to be prepared,” says Lori. Lori believes strongly that the team members they employ and their families are everything. She is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.
Kendra Cook, CEO
Columbus Aesthetic & Plastic Surgery
A love of sales, business, and visual concepts compelled Kendra Cook, CEO of Columbus Aesthetic & Plastic Surgery (CAPS), straight into the world of business. She started her career in the retail industry, and it didn’t take long for her to rise to management ranks due to her exceptional talent in developing people and knowing how to sell from a buyer’s perspective. At that time, Kendra says, “It was so important to me to develop each employee to achieve the highest levels of their growth and to see them become leadership superstars when challenged with bigger and better objectives. Finding success with a broader mindset and focusing on the details is when true confidence is found and will propel them to the next management level.”
After many years in fashion retail, Kendra transitioned to the beauty industry. “Once you enter the beauty industry, you never want to leave,” she shares. Already renowned for business operations, leadership, sales, and development, Kendra became focused on service. As an independent consultant, Kendra helped salon’s and spa’s grow their business by insisting on high-quality service and refining operations to improve their profit margins. “As a consultant, I loved the results the businesses were getting, but I missed the gratification from owning the full outcomes and the day-to-day strategic planning that drives results,” adds Kendra.
Armed with the desire to be in a long-term position and stay in Ohio, Kendra prepared a plan and met with the board of Columbus Aesthetics & Plastic Surgery (CAPS). She shared her vision for refining the practice’s operations, expanding services, sales strategies, updating the business model, and igniting the culture. Kendra’s extensive business background in the fashion, retail, and beauty industries, combined with her understanding in the importance of visual concepts, made her the ideal steward of the prestigious CAPS brand.
Kendra was hired as the Business Director for CAPS in 2010. She immediately tasked herself with achieving growth by adding diversified services, expanding medical-grade skincare offerings, and keeping up with the ever-changing industry, all while developing each employee to their fullest potential. “Our mission was ensuring we were offering the highest quality care in an environment that fosters trust, thrives on innovation, and provides the best possible patient experience,” adds Kendra.
After over a decade of unparalleled success, Kendra was named CEO of Columbus Aesthetic & Plastic Surgery (CAPS). CAPS is now a leading plastic surgery practice in the Midwest. The company has expanded to two locations and grew its employees from 20 in 2010 to 100 in 2021. They now occupy 28,000 square feet between the two offices in Upper Arlington and Easton Town Center. CAPS is excited to announce that its growth is continuing with strategic additions to its team.
This summer, a sixth plastic surgeon will join CAPS. This physician will add to the talent and care that the current five board-certified surgeons Dr. Treece, Dr. Vasko, Dr. Heck, Dr. Wakelin, and Dr. Angelos bring to the practice and community. In addition, CAPS is working through plans to expand its service offering that could include dermatology in the upcoming years. While plastic surgery and dermatology seem to go hand-in-hand, collaborations in the same practice are rarely found. “With the plethora of services that we offer, adding a dermatologist to the practice would be a win-win for the patients,” notes Kendra. Dermatology and plastic surgery work toward the same goals and often refer patients to one another. “For patient convenience and to enhance our overall CAPS experience, adding this specialty to the group made sense,” says Kendra.
CAPS offers an array of treatments and services in conjunction with plastic surgery procedures, including injectables (Botox® and fillers); medical spa services such as Aesthetician skincare treatments, CoolSculpting®, laser resurfacing, and Ultherapy®; vaginal rejuvenation, hair restoration, and hair loss prevention, miraDry®, and a complete Wellness Center. CAPS routinely offers educational events to share information about these services through monthly, in-demand virtual events and a robust social media program. “We want to make it easy for new and existing patients to get information about potential solutions for them,” says Kendra, “and today, that almost always starts online and then becomes a personal consultation.”
“It is essential that we stay on top of the latest advancements so that we can continue offering what is state-of-the-art,” Kendra says. As members of the American Society of Plastic Surgery, American MedSpa Association, and, due to the practice’s size and volume, CAPS is privy to the latest advancements in treatments, procedures, and medical-grade products and is among the first to receive these advanced training modules. “One of the many things that set us apart from other practices is our training. We strive to elevate our employees at an accelerated pace to maintain our top ranking in the country for plastic surgeons and medical spa practices. We have access to national educators that train our specialists and administrators, giving them the expertise to take them to a higher level,” adds Kendra.
“My favorite and proudest part of running the practice is creating a memorable experience throughout a patient’s journey,” says Kendra. She recalls a moment when she sat with a breast cancer survivor in their waiting area. The patient was about to have her first appointment for breast reconstructive surgery, and she was scared and apprehensive about the process. The CAPS team went above and beyond to give her the personal support she needed. Kendra witnessed the woman’s demeanor change with each step in the process and the joy on her face when she saw her final results. “I knew we had something special within this organization, which inspired us to start CAPS for the Cure.
In 2011, Columbus Aesthetic & Plastic Surgery launched CAPS for the CURE fundraising event, benefiting breast cancer organizations and supporting the Central Ohio community. What started in the parking lot of their Upper Arlington location with 50 guests, has grown to a gala with more than 500 guests in attendance annually, with hundreds of thousands of dollars raised to support breast cancer research through the years. “The event is now managed by The CAPS Foundation, a non-profit 501c3 foundation. It is such a special moment for all of us at CAPS to hear how this has positively changed the lives of some of our patients and how other patients can be involved with supporting this amazing Foundation,” says Kendra.
As for Kendra’s plan for the future at Columbus Aesthetic & Plastic Surgery, she will continue to stay ahead of what’s new in this ever-changing industry, while investing in the staff’s development and ensuring CAPS culture is grounded in its core values.
Patients recognize that CAPS is the place trusted with their own personal lifetime of beauty needs. It is where the patient feels appreciated, too, thanks to regular patient appreciation events and specials. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) chose Kendra to serve on a board with the top seven practice leaders in the United States – an elite role with national responsibility.
All of Kendra’s success has been a combination of surrounding herself with outstanding, passionate, like-minded team members. Hiring, developing, and inspiring great leaders have helped CAPS and Kendra affect more people and positively change their lives. Kendra says, “At CAPS, we truly believe what we do helps patients and staff to Look Better, Feel Better, and, most of all, Live Better. My journey has always been about making a difference – having an impact.” Kendra has influenced countless CAPS service providers and employees’ careers through her leadership and the personal investment she makes in them. In 2021, Kendra was recognized as one of the most admired CEOs by Columbus Business First. Of the award, Kendra says with pride, “It was an honor to be among this group of highly-accomplished CEOs. I couldn’t be more humbled and appreciative of the award, but, moreover, to celebrate it with the people I get to work with every day and the patients we get to help – my CAPS family!”
Chief Executive of Easton Town Center
Having a strong, family foundation was something Jennifer Peterson, Chief Executive at Easton, grew up with in her Northeast Ohio community. Jennifer was raised in Hudson, Ohio, and lived with her parents and two older brothers. Her grandmother lived in Columbus, but visited often, and was a very strong influence and role model for her — and still is today, although she passed away many years ago. Jennifer’s parents taught her at a young age that she could be anything and could do anything. She was also shown the importance of giving back. Her dad, in particular, taught her the value of contributing to the community by his example of volunteering. She continues to be influenced by his values every day, and for the past eleven years, by his angel spirit.
Up until sophomore year of high school, Jennifer attended public school. She was active in student government and also a member of the tennis and track teams. When she decided to make a change to attend Western Reserve Academy — a private school in Hudson — to finish her high school education, even she was surprised. She’s not sure what inspired her, but it turned out to be a life-changing move. This new environment helped her to grow as a person and exposed her to different people, cultures and ideas. She benefitted from strong teachers that pushed her to develop critical thinking and to open her mind to larger-than-life possibilities. This set her on a different path.
Jennifer attended the University of Michigan following her high school graduation. After a road trip with a friend to Ann Arbor, she fell in love with the school and the cool vibe of the town. This could have been an unpopular decision in her family, as the majority attended The Ohio State University, but thankfully her parents were supportive. Jennifer spent four amazing years there and graduated from UofM with a degree in psychology. Her friendships — and the town — still mean a great deal to her, and she looks forward to regular reunions there with dear pals.
After college graduation, Jennifer moved to Chicago, where she spent nearly seven years working for Ogilvy & Mather advertising. “There were a lot of young people there, with great energy. I learned so much professionally and had a very active social life and made so many great friends,” says Jennifer. Working on accounts for large clients like Sears and NutraSweet, exposed her to the world of brand building and the business of marketing.
She was then recruited by Bates Worldwide, a NY-based ad agency, to join their office in Columbus, which was dedicated to the Wendy’s National advertising account. There she worked with the Wendy’s team for three years as an account supervisor. “I had never considered moving back to Ohio, but the opportunity was one I couldn’t pass up,” adds Jennifer. She had the unique experience of working on campaigns with Dave Thomas. “I loved working on the Wendy’s business. As someone fairly young in my career, I got to spend a lot of time with senior management, and with Dave, which was huge. He was an iconic founder.”
Around the three-year mark, Jennifer received a call about a job at The Limited, Inc. (now L. Brands) – a new position in marketing to help reposition Lane Bryant as a fashion brand. She jumped at the chance to combine her passion for brands and marketing, with a personal passion for fashion, and never looked back.
Jennifer worked for L Brands for 16 years. She was grateful to have been able to fully leverage the portfolio of brands owned by the company, holding senior roles at Bath & Body Works, PINK, Victoria’s Secret and C.O. Bigelow, in addition to Lane Bryant. “While every brand was unique, the quality of thinking, associates and experience, were all incredible,” says Jennifer. “Literally, I worked with top talent at every stop along the journey.”
Favorite memories of her tenure include “spending lots of time on college campuses,” as part of the PINK brand launch, with inspiring young women at their “most optimistic time of life”; being a part of the marketing efforts behind the iconic Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show; and, of course, leading the apothecary-inspired C.O. Bigelow brand. She says all were career highlights.
Following her time at C.O. Bigelow, a former Limited colleague referred her to a woman from her hometown of Hudson, to discuss the possibility of joining a sister company to Thirty-One Gifts, called Jewell. The team was launching a new fashion handbag and accessories line within the direct selling space. Jennifer recalls, “I had no experience in direct sales, but saw the strong potential in this model and signed on to help create something new.” At Jewell, Jennifer oversaw marketing and product design and development. This new brand under the Thirty-One umbrella was targeted to professional, working women. The goal was to bring products into their environment, having events at the office in conference rooms and at happy hours, not home sales. Following her time at Jewell, what came next, after a period of brand consulting and being open to many possibilities, Jennifer could have never predicted.
Being recruited for the leadership role at Easton Town Center was certainly unexpected, but the more she learned about the management company – Steiner + Associates – and the vision for the position and the brand, the more interested she became. “I had several meetings and conversations with the Steiner team, and realized it was an incredible opportunity that truly brought together all of my skills and experiences … in business, fashion, retail, customer experience, branding, events … all of it.” Importantly, the job also came with a strong component of purpose, a key attribute on Jennifer’s list of “must haves.”
Jennifer has been with Easton for almost six years, and she continues to learn and grow daily. Never more so than in 2020. “This last year gave us a run for our money,” Jennifer laughs. “There was no playbook or guide for how to manage through a global pandemic.” She is proud of her team and how Easton has come through this difficult time. It required, at times, for her “to work around the clock,” but was worth it to see the property reopen and regain its place in customer’s hearts and minds, as somewhere “to escape the everyday and be uplifted.” Being named a TOP10 COMEBACK Retail Center Experience for their efforts, by Chain Store Age magazine, was a thrill and extremely gratifying.
Continuing to take Easton to the next level is her priority, especially in how they differentiate themselves with customer experience, as well as their support of tenants and merchant partners. “We work hard to provide our tenants with support through events, connections, marketing opportunities and special services,” adds Jennifer. Anything they can do to support the businesses and make them more successful is the goal. “Our tenants tell us they love the way we support them. They share with us that our service model is different from many other centers. And, we appreciate that they recognize that.”
As part of Jennifer’s position at Easton, she also has the privilege of overseeing the Easton Community Foundation. Funds from the Foundation support the community at large, as well as non-profit organizations, schools, the development of future community leaders, the arts and much more, throughout the greater Columbus area. “I have always prioritized community involvement. It helps to keep me balanced and whole,” adds Jennifer. She gets great fulfillment in seeing the impact that these dollars and efforts have, and also from her own personal involvement in community causes. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Center for Healthy Families, Leadership Columbus and ALVIS. Jennifer is also involved with her church, First Community, Women2Women mentoring and was a City of Columbus Commissioner for the Commission on Black Girls, as well as held previous posts with CATCO and Dress for Success Columbus.
Jennifer has been married for 21 years to her husband, Chris. They have three children: Issy is a sophomore at University of Kentucky, Millie is a senior in high school and just accepted an offer to the University of Cincinnati, and their son Harry is a sophomore in high school. Despite the COVID-19 challenges of the past year, they have cherished the time they have had together. “We loved having more family dinners together than ever before. It has been a gift to be together more as a family.”
Jennifer’s free time is filled with doing things as a family and enjoying some of her own hobbies. They love getting outside for hikes and walks, golfing, bike rides (They are 11-year veterans of Pelotonia!), tennis, skiing and paddle tennis. She enjoys reading about current events, movies, music and challenging herself to learn and grow as a person.
Despite everything that has been tough in the past year, Jennifer feels grateful and lucky for her family, her role at Easton and what she can offer to this community that she loves.
Founding Partner of Mac Murray & Shuster
With an entrepreneurial spirit, Michele Shuster, Partner, CIPP/US, CECP Mac Murray & Shuster LLP, got started with her first business at the age of eight. “I always had something going on,” recalls Michele. “I tried to identify a need and fill it. I sold keychains door-to-door, fruits and vegetables from my grandfather’s farm to local neighbors and even opened a carnival in my backyard!”
At a young age, Michele also knew she was interested in becoming an attorney. She attended the University of Cincinnati where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business with a focus in accounting and finance. After graduation, Michele moved across the country and attended law school at Golden Gate University School of Law.
While working toward her law degree, Michele was a Governor of the American Bar Association Law Student Division representing Northern California and Nevada. During law school, she recognized the talent of the students and thought they could be helpful providing research to attorneys. She created a service business called Legal Research Projects Clearing House. The law school was supportive of this venture and allowed it to operate out of its building. “It became a profitable venture,” says Michele. “We charged attorneys $15 per hour and paid the law students $10 per hour.” The business employed about 60% of her fellow law students at Golden Gate University School of Law.
An article was published about Legal Research Projects Clearing House, and this recognition was noticed by Hastings Research, a well-established company with a similar business model. Hastings Research approached Michele and her partners about acquiring the business, which they did. Michele calls it “my first acquisition.”
After graduation, Michele spent a few years navigating through firms trying to find her fit. She built up experience in litigation and transactional law. She experienced the world of law at small firms and large firms.
Michele found her place back in Ohio when she joined the Attorney General’s office under the leadership of Betty Montgomery. “General Montgomery was the best steward of government affairs that I have ever seen,” adds Michele. “Her focus was always on ‘good government’ rather than ‘politics’.” Michele began her journey in the AG’s office in 1997 as the Assistant Chief in the Crime Victims Services Section. With her business background, she became interested in consumer protection and moved into the role of Assistant Chief in the Consumer Protection Section. “It was an incredible office and Betty was a joy to work with. She was a wonderful role model. She found important issues and addressed them,” says Michele.
In 2003, Michele continued in the Attorney General office under the direction of Jim Petro, serving as Senior Deputy Attorney General with the Consumer Protection Section. Michele was the chief officer over an 80-member staff consisting of attorneys, investigators, educators, mediators, and union support staff. They were charged with the enforcement of Ohio’s criminal and civil consumer protection laws.
As luck would have it, Michele found another great mentor in Helen Mac Murray. Helen was the practice leader for law firm Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter’s National Regulatory Affairs practice area. Helen asked Michele to join her at Kegler Brown, which she did in 2004.
Helen and Michele’s style of practicing law was very similar and they knew they could expand their practice if they went out on their own. In 2007, Mac Murray & Shuster was born. “Only 3% of law firms are female owned in the United States,” says Michele. The early success of the firm landed them many offers to combine with larger firms, but it was important for the partners to remain independent.
Mac Murray & Shuster remains a boutique firm but provides a big impact to their clients. The firm is focused on consumer protection regulatory compliance and defense counsel, advising businesses from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 500 companies on compliance with telemarketing, advertising, privacy, and other complex state and federal consumer protection laws.
Throughout her life, Michele has valued the mentors who have supported her. “I hugely value mentors,” says Michele. “They have helped me to put things into perspective throughout my career and life.” At Mac Murray & Shuster, mentors are formally assigned within the firm. They are generally selected based on someone’s passion. Michele loves to mentor on marketing and business development because those are things that have brought her the most fulfillment during her career. “Mentorship is important. Most of the time people think it is impossible to achieve big goals, but by sharing your story with a mentee and telling them it is possible it can have a big impact on that person.” Michele often supports mentorship in organizations she is a part of. She has been a member of Entrepreneur Organization (EO) since 2011. EO allows entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life. Michele has served as mentorship chair for the Columbus Chapter.
Along with a plethora of professional associations, Michele shares her professional and personal passion with the community. She is a founding member of the Columbus Area Republican Women, has served with Junior Achievement of Central Ohio, been a board member for the New Albany East Community Authority, and is a Past President of the Ohio Women’s Bar Association.
Like most parents, once Michele had children many of her passions were driven by what they were a part of. She was and still is a proud sports mom!
When one of Michele’s three sons was diagnosed with dyslexia in elementary school, they were presented with many challenges, including spending a great deal of time each night navigating through schoolwork. Michele explains, “Dyslexia is a non-specific learning disability. Dyslexics don’t learn conventionally, but once they obtain compensation methods, they can excel.” Today, her son is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and is in his third year of medical school. They have been involved with the International Dyslexia Association.
In addition to her three boys, Michele is also a newlywed. She and her husband live in the Columbus area in a home that they completely restored. As a family they love to cook and eat great food. “When the entire family is together, we love to do our version of Chopped,” Michele laughs. “We each get a basket with items in it and have to make into something. The competition can get pretty intense!”
Travel is very important to Michele. She has been fortunate to attend business trips that have taken her around the world. Just prior to COVID-19 slowing travel down, Michele was on a business trip in South Africa. During the trip she was able to carve out some time for a safari. She is also an avid scuba diver and loves the peacefulness of exploring the ocean.
Michele is an entrepreneur at heart. There are often 20 ideas in her head at one time. She knows the importance of sorting through those ideas in order to find the best one to pursue. Michele prides herself on being present. “The most important thing to do in life is to show up,” adds Michele. “Every fantastic thing that has happened in my life is because I showed up.”