Good leadership skills, a positive attitude, willingness to put in long hours, and a passion for your work are all qualities that many of the local business owners at Western Wayne Middle School’s first Entrepreneurship Day discussed with students.
The eighth grade class was treated to presentations by a dozen local business owners on the afternoon of Thursday, June 6. The students signed up to hear about businesses in fields of their interests prior to the experience. They then had the opportunity to listen to some of the working professionals in three half-hour sessions.
Business owners who participated included: Katharine Brown, owner of Fox Hill Farm; Joyce Keen DeBastiani, owner of the Wallflower and the Lodge at Keen Lake; Jordan Hayden, owner of Salon Jam; Rick Hoch, owner of Hoch Oil and Heat; Mindy Maros, owner of LLC Lake Wallenpaupack Marine Storage and Repair; Lenny Wargo, owner of Head Up Flooring; Attorney Michael Farley; Ron Augelli, owner of Augelli Printing; Jeff Gogolski, of Beck, Gogolski, Poska & Co.; Carl Lutkowski, owner of C&S Athletic Club, Dr. Cathy Salak, dentist; and Mike Walsh, of Guide Light Counseling.
Eighth grader Alyson Buchinski said she enjoyed Walsh’s presentation and learned about the qualities that good counselors must have in order to succeed.
“I learned you have to be able to speak well for that career,” Alyson said.
Another presenter who spoke about good communication skills was Joyce Keen DeBastiani of the Wallflower and the Lodge at Keen Lake.
DeBastiani said she learned how to stand her ground in business operations at a young age. She explained to the students how when she was eight years old she would place candy orders for her father’s business.
“The candy man was afraid of me because I knew how to say no,” DeBastiani explained to the students. “He would try to sell me anything and everything, but I made sure we got what was best for our customers.”
DeBastiani’s family has owned and run the Lodge at Keen Lake for many years. In addition, she has owned and operated the Wallflower for 34 years. She explained how the Wallflower, located in downtown Honesdale, sells a variety of unique clothing and jewelry among many other items.
She told students that to be successful in business you have to wear many hats.
“I’m a buyer, seller, manager, merchandiser, and even sometimes a janitor,” DeBastiani explained.
Above all else, she told students her favorite part about owning her business is loving what she does every day.
“I don’t mind working hard because I love what I do,” DeBastiani said.
Another business owner at the event, who equally loves what she does, is Katharine Brown, owner of the wedding venue Fox Hill Farm.
Brown felt especially thrilled to speak to Western Wayne Middle School students since she taught at Western Wayne Middle School for four years in the early 2000s.
“Any chance to speak in front of young people is a favorite day for me,” Brown said. “It is good to expose kids to different possibilities through events like this. I want them to know that you never know where life will take you and that the college track isn’t for everyone.”
Brown explained that her business started as an operation where she made floral arrangements for a variety of events until one day a bride asked if she could have her actual wedding at the venue Brown was creating the flowers.
“It was a very organic start to our event venue business,” Brown explained.
In addition, Brown said that in recent times she opened a second venue called 6th & River that is a restored brick warehouse. She explained that this venue is very helpful because of the unpredictable weather we have been experiencing.
Another business owner who is just as ambitious as Brown is Jordan Hayden, 2015 Western Wayne graduate, and her business partner Melissa Morgan, 2015 North Pocono graduate, who own Salon Jam in Covington Township. Salon Jam has been in business since 2012.
Hayden and Morgan were glad to be asked to share their experiences with Western Wayne students.
“I loved to see how excited they were,” Morgan said. “Hearing our story helped them to understand how businesses work in real life.”
Hayden was glad to have the chance to represent the beauty industry at the event.
“Our industry isn’t always taken seriously,” Hayden explained. “It’s good to let the students know that they have creative options for careers.”
She went on to explain how much she enjoys working in a close- knit community.
“It’s such a close circle, and it’s really great to get to have so many customers who are connected to each other in different ways,” Hayden explained. “It’s like working with customers who are all part of a big extended family.”
Another business owner at the event who knows about working with family was Lenny Wargo owner of Head Up Flooring. Wargo explained how he has worked in his family’s business for 28 years and took over running operations twelve years ago.
Much like the other business owners, Wargo told the students about the commitment it takes to run a business and the commitment he is looking for from his employees and future employees.
“In order to be successful, you schedule your life around your work not the other way around,” Wargo said.
A 1997 Western Wayne graduate, Wargo was glad to give back to his school community by speaking to the students.
“It was neat to interact with them,” Wargo said. “They had a lot of questions about the money aspect of business.”
This isn’t the first time Wargo has worked in some respect at the school he graduated from. Wargo explained how in recent years his company did the flooring in parts of the middle school and high school along with redoing the flooring in the high school and middle school gyms among other Western Wayne campus remodeling projects.
“I remember I helped my dad put the original flooring in the high school gym as well about twenty years ago,” Wargo said. “Now that is really full circle.”
Wargo’s son Landon, who is a sixth grader at Western Wayne Middle School, is keeping the tradition of working in the family business alive. He said he is learning a lot from working with his dad on different projects and was proud his father got to speak to his older classmates at the event.
Overall the eighth grade class felt very inspired by their experiences at the first Western Wayne Middle School Entrepreneurship Day.
“I got out of the presentations that the owners really love their jobs,” eighth grader Isabella O’Donnell said. “I learned how important it is to find something that you really love, because then you’ll be really happy to go to work each day.”