Women in Business

BY Stephanie Karampelas

We are especially proud of our seventh annual Women in Business feature and not only because these women exude integrity hard work professionalism and intelligence in their occupations. This year’s selection represents something a bit more – five special women who have risen above the challenges of a serious economic downturn kept their chins up their eyes open and their professional passions ablaze. We tip our hats to these five inspirational women who share a work ethic a point of view and a drive to succeed that separates them from the pack.

Owner and broker in charge – Atlantic Rental Management

After the tragedies of 9/11 Jane Staton decided to quit her job working with an airline and blow the dust off her real estate license. Since she enjoyed every aspect of the rental industry she decided to start there.

The majority of property management companies are divisions or sub-companies of larger real estate firms so starting her business was an immediate challenge for Staton.

“I had to make my name out there among already established real estate firms ” she says. “That was a hurdle I am proud to have overcome.”

For six years Staton has successfully overseen the operations of Atlantic Rental Management’s residential vacation and commercial rental services working with hundreds of tenants and owners. She says it is perpetually gratifying to develop relationships with her clients and gain their respect as her business expands.

The nature of the rental market is fast-paced motivating and exciting despite the obvious challenges of the economic downturn. Atlantic Rental Management has been so successful in fact that they are “busting at the seams” with new business. In the near future Staton wants to open new offices in other locations.

There are unique challenges for women in business but this hasn’t been a problem for Staton who always finds a way to rise to the occasion. She delights in every aspect of her job and knows that it’s a natural fit for her. She is a woman who finds balance within her everyday challenges.

“Work is something I look forward to ” she says. “I would never want to be at a place in my life where I didn’t have a reason to put my feet on the floor in the morning.”

Founder and Owner – A Carolina Wedding

Step into this charming bridal salon on Second Street in Historic Downtown Wilmington and you’ll find Tonya Boulware owner and founder of A Carolina Wedding waltzing around amidst yards of tulle and French silk chattering excitedly with an ecstatic bride who has just decided on the perfect dress. The bride’s teary-eyed friends gather around as Boulware takes pictures of the group and in the blink of an eye the magic of her profession is evident – Boulware specializes in making dreams come true.

Boulware’s background – climbing the corporate ladder at a Fortune 400 company – helped her develop excellent business and leadership skills. Along the way she discovered that a nine-to-five cubicle occupation – life in a box – wasn’t the right fit for her. In 1999 Boulware took a leap of faith and opened up A Carolina Wedding in the room above her garage.

“I was influenced from above to take this drastic career turn ” says Boulware. “I was a single parent who needed freedom and flexibility in my profession.”

Ready for change she went out and bought every wedding magazine came up with a name for her business and boom that’s how it happened.

What began as a small business in her home with a staff of three has grown to be a thriving full-service bridal salon in the heart of downtown. After a few years devoted to working hard development and advertising A Carolina Wedding is now the first place that brides call to find help planning the big day.

“The most important thing to me is that the bride isn’t stressed out with the challenges of planning a wedding that everything goes smooth as silk ” says Boulware. “It’s a very personal business. A bride needs the personal touch – that’s what she’s going to remember.”

General contractor – Anne & Bradshaw

There is no challenge too great for Pam Fasse co-founder and general contractor of Anne & Bradshaw Inc. When her WB home was destroyed – not once but twice – by hurricanes instead of throwing up her hands in frustration she decided to take action and rebuild the home herself.

Fasse’s professional background in nutrition and wellness management prompted her to take a scientific approach to contracting; she wanted to find not just the right way but the best way to do things.

“I have always been interested in the physical the mechanical ” says Fasse. “I was the kid who went with Dad to buy power tools.”

Her determination and intelligence pushed her into the construction field and as she gained knowledge and confidence she decided that it would be an excellent career path and an opportunity to create unique and sustainable homes in Wilmington.

“You don’t need to be a carpenter to get involved in construction ” she laughs. “You need to be a business manager; you need to thoroughly understand what it is you are doing.”

Fasse spent a few months studying architecture in Southeast Asia in 2005 fascinated by the fact that buildings in Japan still stood tall and strong after hundreds of years. This inspired her ultimate goal as a general contractor – to build homes that would stand the test of time.

When she returned from Southeast Asia Fasse and her husband founded Anne & Bradshaw Inc. (their middle names). Since its inception they have built beautiful low-maintenance and high energy efficiency rated homes with an environmentally minded focus building them not just the right way but the best way.

President – Kusek Financial Group Inc

A decade ago Patricia Kusek was ready to throw in the towel and file for early retirement. Instead life handed her a fabulous new career hundreds of new friends and a beautiful new place to call home.

Kusek started college at N.C. State University but transferred and finished her degree in mathematics at Catawba College in Salisbury North Carolina to be closer to her father who was battling cancer.

“He is the reason that I love numbers ” says Kusek. “Growing up on the farm he taught me how to count.”

After her father’s passing Kusek worked for Duke Power Company for 25 years holding positions such as communications manager quality consultant and national account manager.

Although these opportunities supplied her with a wealth of knowledge and experience Kusek needed an escape from the big corporate world. She describes her current position as the president of Kusek Financial Group Inc. as “a match made in heaven.”

“This job is a perfect melding of all the things I love to do ” says Kusek. “I deal with numbers work with people control my own schedule and teach.”

Clearly these are things that she not only loves to do but things that she is very good at. Even though Kusek currently works with 250 households she maintains personal relationships with each of her clients.

“When my clients come through the door they hug me ” says Kusek whose primary concern is that her clients feel comfortable and leave her office with a thorough understanding of their financial situation.

“There are three things that people worry about: their spirituality their health and their money. I’m fortunate enough to help out with one of those ” says Kusek.

Despite the economic crisis Kusek’s passion for her work remains intact. Each day she walks into her office on Carl Street – her father’s name – with a smile certain that she has found her niche.

Owner – Terrazzo Trattoria

Sitting at the bar in the romantically lit Terrazzo Trattoria owner Maria Accattato illustrates the old saying that if you stick to what you love you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Her happy smile easygoing way with the staff and subtle sway to the background music of Frank Sinatra suggests the contentment that she has found in her profession.

Accattato was born in Sicily and moved to Queens New York when she was four years old. She spent a great deal of her childhood in the kitchen watching her mother make Italian recipes. But Accattato wasn’t just watching; she took a few notes that would later launch her career in the restaurant business.

“My mom is the best chef in the world ” Accattato says. “She taught me everything I know.”

Ten years ago Accattato found the perfect place and profession at Terrazzo Trattoria a charming Italian restaurant that features classic Italian dishes with a contemporary twist fresh local ingredients and an atmosphere that warmly welcomes customers for both lunch and dinner.

“The most gratifying part of my job is seeing the steady flow of regular customers. People come to Wilmington from out of town and Terrazzo is their first and last stop!” says Accattato emphasizing that she owes a great deal of her success to the community her wonderful staff and the support of her family.

As for the future Accattato plans to stay put. “I am very happy here the people are wonderful and business is good ” she says laughing. “Why would I leave?”