Interview by David Powe, write-up by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter
As with many people, Mary Anne Shew - the only person to serve twice as RPCN president - was urged to join RPCN by Ruth Balkin, whom she had met through the Rochester chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). "Joining RPCN was one of the best decisions I made in the early days of my business (2001)," said Shew.
"In RPCN, I found a community of caring people with great knowledge and the willingness to share it."
Once she joined RPCN, Shew decided to serve as a vice president to build the program schedule and get more familiar with the leaders of the organization and how it was run. "I was very pleased with how well it was organized, thanks to David Young, Bob Penty, Bob Lurz, Steve Royal and many others," she said. Serving as president was a logical next step: "I was willing to step up to being president because there was a great team in place."
In addition to helping strengthen RPCN, Shew set personal goals for herself as president - to build and practice her leadership skills. "As a solo business owner, I work on my own a great deal of the time," she explained. "RPCN gave me the opportunity to continue the work I had done in my corporate career to develop leadership skills."
One of Shew's favorite outcomes during her first term as president was the first RPCN conference. "The board and I set some milestones and criteria for success and delegated the responsibility to the conference committee, who did a beautiful job," she recalled. "The first conference went off without a hitch, to rave reviews."
Shew sees the practice of holding meetings four times a month as one of the reasons for RPCN's success and longevity because it "gives people the opportunity to get to know others very quickly - versus only having monthly meetings - which, in turn, encourages them to join the organization," she said. "This is another special uniqueness that RPCN offers. I can't think of another organization in town that offers so many meetings and with such consistently high-quality content."
A believer in "paying it forward," Shew said she has been "privileged to mentor a few other people who followed me as president, such as Yvonne DiVita (
) and Lori Cohen (
After Shew's first term as president, another president had to step down and she offered to step in again. The board approved it, making her the only person to date to have served as president twice.
Nowadays, Shew continues to run the business she started in 2000. It began as ShewTech Associates, offering website design, development and maintenance. In 2005, she added business coaching and consulting services and rebranded the company as Business Vitality LLC
, which is its name today.
"I help small companies be successful," said Shew. "I work with small-business owners to be prepared; to produce high-quality results for their clients and customers; and to prosper personally, professionally and financially in their own lives."
Shew credits RPCN with helping her continue to grow and develop as a leader. Leading efforts as president to raise awareness in the Rochester business community about RPCN gave her the opportunity to reach out to others on behalf of RCPN, "raising awareness of me and my business at the same time," she said. The organization also enhanced her networking resources: "RPCN gave me access to high-quality consultants whom I feel completely confident about referring my clients to when they have needs that I don't provide. My clients are impressed that I have relationships with such good people."
Shew's advice to colleagues is to "attend RPCN meetings on a regular basis to build your tribe of friends and colleagues. No one truly runs a business completely on their own; we all are dependent on each other for success. At the same time, give back to RPCN, help it continue to prosper and grow to support Rochester's next generation of entrepreneurs."