These Trailblazers Check Fear at the Door

L-R: Mary Ann Nolan and her daughter, Elizabeth; Tiffany Allman; Ara Atkinson Skinner, Great Dames CEO and President Sharon Hake; Great Dames series moderator Maria Hess; Rita asdfad. (Photo by Paul Pruitt Photography.)

L-R: Mary Ann Nolan and her daughter, Elizabeth; Tiffany Allman; Ara Atkinson Skinner; Great Dames CEO and President Sharon Hake; Great Dames series moderator Maria Hess; Rita Wilkins.
(Paul Pruitt Photography)

Fear, perhaps the biggest barrier to entrepreneurship, is elusive to the savvy innovators who addressed a crowd of professionals Monday night at Pizza by Elizabeths. As part of the spring 2015 Great Dames Powerful Conversations Series, four Delaware women shared the inspiration of their start up business ideas as well as their successes, fears and the continuum of change and evolution.

Meet the trailblazers:

Tiffany Allman

Allman works at a bank now, but with the encouragement of her Great Dames Women in Action mentor, she’s taking the plunge to open ART Kitchen Studio. The business will be a commercial kitchen rental and commissary. Allman said she saw a need for it because it’s her dream – and goal – to open a cheesecake business, but she had a hard time finding a certified commercial kitchen to make cheesecakes for sale. She figured other would-be culinary entrepreneurs in Delaware must face a similar hurdle, so she hopes her kitchen studio will address that.

Biggest challenge: Getting her business off the ground and running. (It’s still in planning stages.)

Her business advice: “Let the public know your dream. No one should ever feel they can’t start something due to a limitation.”

Photo by Paul Pruitt Photography

Photo by Paul Pruitt Photography

Ara Atkinson Skinner

Atkinson Skinner, who has her own illustrating business, was inspired to make Bold Eagle Bands because of the women in her life who have fought cancer and also after volunteering with cancer patients at Nemours/A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children. They’re decorative, reversible headbands that make a fashion statement (instead of a wig or turban) for those undergoing chemotherapy. She started the business in September and is seeking a team to expand the business.

Biggest challenges: Securing a patent that won’t blow the bank, finding investors and developing a passionate team to take the bands to market.

Her business advice: Be patient and don’t fear calling someone for help. “Sometimes you just have to do it even if you are afraid.”

Mary Ann Nolan

Bakers at Waggies by Maggie & Friends. Photo courtesy of Anne Connolly.

Bakers at Waggies by Maggie & Friends
(Photo courtesy of Anne Connolly)

She’s grown her nonprofit, Waggies by Maggie & Friends, with great success and community support. She was inspired to begin the dog-treat making business that hires intellectually disabled adults because she saw a lack of jobs available for people with cognitive disabilities. Her own daughter, Elizabeth, who has Down Syndrome, enjoys showing up for work every Monday at Waggies.

Biggest challenge: Marketing.

Her business advice: “Play by the rules.” Form a board, she said, and listen to the experts. Her accountant, Nolan said, is one of her most valuable assets even though she doesn’t visit the Waggies location often. “She keeps us out of jail,” Nolan joked.

Rita Wilkins

When Wilkins heard that 20 percent of the population will be retired by 2030, that got her thinking about people living to the max in their golden years. She formed The Good Life, a planned community concept with destination living options for retirees in all 50 states. Wilkins is starting with four initial locations – Charleston, S.C.; the Chesapeake Bay; Vermont; and Sarasota, Fla.; and her full website with more details will launch in April.

Biggest challenge: The evolution of the business. She has learned the importance of being open to change.

Her business advice: “Build a team of smart people who know things you don’t.” She also advised using fear as a motivator instead of a hindrance, and always have a goal to work toward.

There are two more speakers in this year’s Powerful Conversations Series: NBC 10’s Tracy Davidson on April 13 and three writers on May 11.


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1 Comment

  • Thank you so much for taking time to write a beautiful article. All the women who are highlighted in the article are amazing and the women who came out to learn and support women in creative roles are especially wonderful and supportive. Thanks to all who are showing up in some way and building a strong community of women, supporting each other’s dreams and ventures!