By Ashley McCarty
The third week in October is Business Women’s Week, honoring the strong women throughout the industry.
The observance not only focuses on the accomplishments of women in business, it also takes a look at the past and how far women in business have come and how far they have yet to go.
In Adams County, a person doesn’t have to look far to see the inspirational female business leadership in the community. Juliana Staten, co-owner of Community Fuels in West Union, Ohio, wears the crown in the local oil and fuel industry.
“I got into the business through my husband Kevin. My husband has worked in the fuel industry driving a truck for quite a few years before I came into it. I actually was a financial and cost analyst for a manufacturing firm, and his former employers wanted to sell Community Fuels and offered it to us to buy. So we took this over, and having an accounting background it was easy for me to walk in and to be able to do the book work, but knowing nothing about the fuel or oil industry was a huge learning curve,” said Staten.
In the fuel and oil industry, long dominated by men, Staten had to carve her own path.
“We’re basically in a man’s world being in the fuel and oil industry, a lot of people don’t want to take your word for anything, or that you know anything being in this type of industry, even though I’ve been in it for 15 years. But, to me, it’s been very rewarding. It was a challenge to take on this business, a challenge to get everything to work and flow properly from my end being an accountant, but also I had a marketing background in college, so that was just kind of natural instinct for me to take over the store and to boost the sales. It’s been very challenging, but rewarding,” said Staten.
Another challenge Staten still faces is establishing her credibility as a woman.
“There are some people who feel that, since being a female, I know nothing about oil or could know nothing about oil, and they would rather speak to a male. Is the man in charge, where’s the man in charge, I get that question a lot. For us to be able to answer questions, they kind of take a step back, and then I think they don’t know whether to believe us or not until they get the reassurance from the man. So, it is still very difficult, still get that every day even though we’ve been in the business for 15 years,” said Staten.
When not facing the inherent male incredulity, Staten is focused on improving her business.
“Trying to get a broader clientele. Not only do we have the delivery services, but also having the convenience store and gas station and trying to build your customer [base] and trying to figure out what we can do next to bring more people in. I think that’s just a daily challenge, and will be an ongoing challenge,” she said.
Across town, on Main Street, owner Shawn Vogler of Adams County Florist and Gifts can remember a time when the shop didn’t even have internet.
“When I started, there was no internet. I did have a cellphone, but it was a bag phone. When you went on a delivery, you didn’t have a phone, or a GPS, or anything like that. Now everything is online, we have a website, and we wire orders in and out on the computer. That’s become a big part. We didn’t take credit cards when I first started, nobody had cards, it was all cash or check,” said Vogler.
This was back in 1991, when she and a friend went into business together. A few decades later, Vogler is the only one that remains.
“I have been treated differently in the past, but I would have to say not really now. I was young and new, and it may not have been because I was a female, but just because I was young. So, as you get older, and you’ve been around a while, they gain respect for you — or learn to live with you, one or the other,” she said, lighting up the room with her laughter.
As to what it’s like being a female business owner, Vogler said simply, “it’s just not always a man’s world.”
“I just thank everybody for all of their support, and their loyalty over the years. It’s been a wonderful ride, it is a wonderful ride,” she said.
Vogler laughed as she said she plans to continue for another 20 years.