LA ROCHE STUDENT RECEIVES WOMEN IN BUSINESS HONOR
Pittsburgh, May 14, 2010 – Ruby Wilkosz of Allison Park, Pa., was named one of Pittsburgh’s Top 25 2010 Women in Business recently. She is a student in La Roche College’s LEAD Program, a bachelor’s degree completion program focusing on business, leadership and organization development. Wilkosz serves as the regional director of the Working Order Program of Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania following a 29-year career with National City Bank.
Making the leap from banking to non-profit business has been rewarding and, at the same time, challenging for Wilkosz, but she says she wouldn’t change anything about her path to success … with one exception: She wishes she had earned her bachelor’s degree earlier. Now, she has made it a point to focus on completing the LEAD Program.
She received her associate’s degree in accounting from Butler County Community College and, like many working mothers, had little time left over to pursue her four-year degree. The fast-paced banking industry consumed much of her time, although she became an active community volunteer. During the last 10 years of her banking career, she served as a branch manager and small business banker, which provided her with exposure to people who yearned to be their own bosses and create a successful venture. A volunteer opportunity with the founder of Working Order, Susan Chase, led to Wilkosz’ current role.
“In 2006, Working Order became a program of Volunteers of America, and my experience in management, accounting, banking and non-profit board leadership was a good fit for moving into the role of regional director,” Wilkosz said.
Volunteers of America’s mission focuses on building “caring communities where Pennsylvanians support each other’s mental, physical, spiritual and social well-being.” Located in Sharpsburg, Pa., the Working Order program serves as an “incubator” for small business owners who are battling disadvantages and/or disabilities while trying to establish best-fit employment for themselves. The organization also helps members of the general public, although that population makes up only 10 percent of the current roster of entrepreneurs. Each client receives individualized coaching and services. Participants may need writing assistance, an opportunity to do a trial work contract, a comprehensive plan for branding and marketing, or assistance with establishing financial systems, Wilkosz noted.
“We do feasibility studies for our business owners, to see if their small business has a real chance of being successful,” Wilkosz said. “We also have community mentors speak on various business topics at our monthly Brown Bag Lunch or provide one-on-one coaching. Our entrepreneurs might not otherwise have a chance to hear this information or have these opportunities for social interaction.”
The program currently assists between 50 and 60 budding entrepreneurs, who Wilkosz describes as people who have a skill to offer or a business concept that’s a passion for them. She and others at Working Order help these people meet their goals or redirect them if their initial business plan looks as if it won’t result in a viable venture.
“We’re in the business of helping people – whether they are people with disabilities or people who just need some general advice,” Wilkosz said. “It’s a great feeling to come to work every day and love what I do.”
Her advice to many entrepreneurs stems from her own experience. “I wish I had finished my degree a long time ago, but I’m glad I enrolled in the LEAD program now. I really enjoy the teachers at La Roche, and I look forward to continuing on and earning my degree.”