Michael Helene, Owner, Michael Helene Salon Gallery

2014 Winner

I was several months pregnant, sick as a dog and had just left the woman’s conference after a long day of amazing education and inspiration when I got a phone call from a friend saying that I had won the business mentorship program and where was I. I said I had left because I was just so tired and not feeling well and I WHAT!!! I had won? In my mind out of all the amazing female business owners in the local area I didn’t think I had a chance. I couldn’t believe I had left and couldn’t except the award, I was devastated, I felt so bad for leaving, it all started coming together though, one of the mentors kept telling me to drink water, and that I looked sick and needed to stay till the end. It didn’t make sense at the time but now I know she knew something I didn’t and she didn’t want me to miss it.

I got the call and I was so excited! As a young business owner of 2 years, it could not have been more helpful, I study and take classes and have worked hard to become the best owner I can be, but at the end of the day I am a hair and makeup artist by trade. With a passion for my industry it has always been my goal to learn all that I can about my craft and the business behind it. I truly could not have been more excited to pick the brains of several very successful business owners and managers.

From the very first meeting I was humbled by the education that was given to me by the Advisory Council. The group helped me to understand the importance of parts of my business that I wasn’t spending as much time on (Profit and Loss), and helped me to see certain situations in ways I had not thought of. I started this experience thinking that the business was running me and that everything that went wrong was personally against me if in fact things did go wrong. I am leaving the experience feeling empowered to grow and to be OK with mistakes I have made because everyone makes them, that is what so often will allow us to grow.

My council was made up of several different types of businesses and years of experience which allowed for different view points and the monthly meetings allowed me to focus in on smaller details of my business. I even loved that there was a council member that lives in the same world I do, the beauty industry. It was great to get advice fro someone who has, been there, done that!

Since the beginning of the year I have managed to, not only have a baby, but rework roles in my salon to create better management systems, understand that sometimes letting something go that seems like a bad idea can be the best thing for the business, how to better track my marketing efforts and more! We met quarterly, set goals and It was great for me to be in the student role as I am usually the teacher.

The only thing I do not like about the program is that it has to end and I cant win again! I hope to be able to be a part of the council someday as a mentor so I can give back what was given to me.


Donna Kulesza, Dulles Case Center

2013 Winner

Winning the Business Mentor Makeover from the Virginia Women’s Business Conference has been an amazing experience for me and Dulles Case Center.

Since winning the award, amazing things have happened to improve my abilities as a leader and to help grow Dulles Case Center. Listening to the speakers at the conference, one theme was repeated by many, and that is you need to invest in yourself! The Business Makeover mentoring sessions with the Virginia Women’s Business Conference executive Advisory Council has been incredible. Everyone has shared so many great ideas, tips, and tools that they personally have used in their own businesses, that I am now using. The fact that the award went beyond one or two focus areas to incorporate all aspects of business was insightful, as each area impacts the other.

The Advisory Council has introduced me to other amazing business people to help support and coach me as I work on growing Dulles Case Center and make it a profitable business. I have had the opportunity to make connections that will increase revenue and the bottom line, as we create a better team at Dulles Case Center.

Everyone here has supported the changes and improvements that we have made so far, and shares the excitement of making 2013 the year we are profitable with target sales of $2,000,000!

I send my deepest appreciation to everyone involved with the Virginia Women’s Business Conference for your support and encouragement, your investment in this award, and helping us succeed. I encourage anyone that is in a transition or are feeling stuck in their business to apply for this valuable opportunity!