Business Notepad

Celebrating women in industry

“It’s their night to shine,” says YWCA Marketing DirectorAmi Worthen about the women who will be honored at the 11th annual Tribute to Women in Industry Awards Banquet on Thursday, March 21, 6 p.m. at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel.

The TWIN Awards were developed by YWCA staff and volunteers to recognize the achievements of women in fields that haven’t traditionally been open to them. “There’s still a lot of inequity in certain fields, and in particular in industry,” notes Worthen.

Over the years, she explains, the scope of the awards has been expanded, but the focus is still primarily on women in corporate settings.

A selection committee screens award candidates, looking for women who: have management responsibilities; lead and inspire; actively support career opportunities for other women; and are involved in efforts to improve the local community. “It’s a competitive process [which] definitely makes it an honor for the women who are chosen,” notes Worthen.

She adds, “We also wanted to acknowledge those companies who have encouraged that type of success: women breaking through the glass ceiling.” At the banquet, both the women chosen and the companies they work for will receive awards.

This year’s honorary chairperson is Ellen M. Wells, CEO of Mountain Health Care.

The TWIN honorees for 2002 are: Becky Cannon, I-Play; Earlene Clark, Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory; Abiola Fapetu, Montreat College; Rae Ferguson, Asheville Police Department; Deborah Frye, Community CarePartners; Melody Taylor Eppler, Wilson, Coman & Taylor; Alice Huff Hart, Asheville City Schools; Yvonne K. Hopkins, Square D Company; Pamela Hughes, National Climatic Data Center; Elizabeth Hunter, HunterKemper Consulting; Mary Jaeger-Gale, Chimney Rock Park; Barbara Johnson, BellSouth; Nancy Kisiah, Salomon Smith Barney; Ellen L. McGinnis, Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa; Teresa Proffitt, Buncombe County Tax Department; Sara Marcia Rafter, Seven Sisters Gallery; Becky Roberts, Wachovia Bank; Miriam Schwarz, Mountain Area Health Education Center; Shaun Tate, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College; Jerylyn Williams, Mission St. Joseph’s Health System; and Amy Vermillion, The Dripolator.

The TWIN banquet — emceed by UNCA Chancellor James Mullen — will include entertainment by the Hill Street Baptist Church Gospel Choir, Stephanie Morgan and Chuck Lichtenberger, and pianist Jake Hollifield. Tickets ($40) can be purchased at the door. The proceeds will benefit the YWCA’s many community programs.

The major underwriters of TWIN 2002 are Clyde Savings Bank, Mission St. Joseph’s and Salomon Smith Barney. Benefactors are Carolina Power & Light and Wachovia Bank.

For more information, call Worthen at 254-7206.

Full service for the feet

Twenty years ago, Byron Cyr was diagnosed with fallen arches and dropped metatarsals in his feet. He explains the pain this way: “It’s like I’m walking directly on the bones.” At first, Cyr tried various orthotics (fitted inserts for shoes) but he says, “They never seemed to help much.” Finally, he “just kind of gave up.”

Recently, however, the pain worsened — and, meanwhile, he’d also developed hallux limitus (arthritis that severely restricts movement of the big toe.) Willing to give orthotics another try, Cyr (on the advice of his doctor) went to Asheville Comfort Shoes & Orthotics (located in the Ingles shopping plaza, 1143D Tunnel Road, across from the VA Hospital).

At his initial appointment, Cyr received a complete biomechanical evaluation from owner/pedorthist Mark Kirshner, who observed the way Cyr walked, took pedigraph imprints (which revealed areas of high pressure), and used a Visu Meter to gauge the effective length of his shoes. Kirshner also asked Cyr a lot of questions: Where was he feeling pain or discomfort? What activities did he engage in and for how long? What couldn’t he do, and more importantly, what would he like to be able to do? (Cyr really wanted to be able to play tennis with less discomfort.)

That information was used to create a pair of custom-fitted orthotics for Cyr which, Kirshner explains, “work to put hips and knees in alignment” and to “bring the ground up to meet the feet,” placing a more balanced pressure on the base of the foot.

Three weeks later, Cyr, back for a follow-up visit, reports that the pain has diminished and the fatigue in his shins has disappeared. And while the quality of his tennis game hasn’t improved much, he jokes, his feet are definitely more comfortable while he’s playing.

Cyr’s story is a common one, notes Kirshner. “We have people who have tried lots of specialists and have come here as a last-ditch effort — we’ve been able to solve their problem or at least make their pain more tolerable.” It’s not unusual, he says, for people to come in with walkers or canes and eventually be able to discard them.

Kirshner doesn’t promise miracles; but he does see his relationship with clients as a “contract” or “marriage” in which he’ll keep working with them and making adjustments (at no extra charge) until both are satisfied they’ve done all they can.

Four years ago, when Kirshner was working as a practitioner at another business, he noticed that customers who asked for referrals on where to buy shoes would often end up with footware that didn’t interface properly with their orthotics. “If you don’t fit the shoe to the orthotic, it won’t lay properly, which defeats the purpose.”

So Kirshner began to envision a more comprehensive business, using the analogy of “an old-fashioned, one-stop gas station where they change your fluids and wash your windows for you.” Besides offering a full range of orthotic and prosthetic services, it would do shoe repairs/modifications and sell custom-made shoes and sandals, a full line of comfort footwear (including Birkenstock and New Balance), compression hosiery and more.

That dream became reality a year-and-a-half later, in August of 1999. He gives much of the credit for Asheville Comfort Shoes’ success to Willie Campbell, a volunteer with the Service Corps of Retired Executives, who Kirshner says told him at the very beginning, “These are great ideas — you’ve got to get them down on paper.” Campbell’s encouragement and guidance enabled Kirshner to come up with a clear business plan, helping the budding entrepreneur recognize and seize the business and financial opportunities that came later. Even now, adds Kirshner, “[Campbell] still checks in with me.”

As with all new businesses, getting up and running has been a struggle. But Kirshner says he’s proud of the fact that the staff he began with — certified compression-hosiery specialist Lisa Setzer and certified exercise physiologist Daniel Hunt — have stuck with him. Kirshner himself is a certified master orthotist (the only one in Asheville) and a certified pedorthist. Charles Wright — a certified kinesiologist, clinical acupuncture technician, and massage and Zen body therapist — recently joined the staff, expanding the list of services available to clients.

Over time, referrals from local doctors and other clients have helped expand the clientele. “Word of mouth,” says Kirshner, has been his best advertising.

Asheville Comfort Shoes sees all kinds of customers — children, athletes (both those with sport injuries and those looking to improve their performance), people suffering from arthritis and diabetes, and just everyday folks looking for more comfortable-fitting shoes (Kirshner estimates that roughly nine out of 10 people wear improperly fitted shoes). Among the common problems he deals with are bunions, Achilles tendinitis, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis (which causes a burning sensation on the bottom of the feet), and fallen arches or metatarsals.

Diabetics, says Kirshner, are the most intense group to work with, “because their foot conditions can actually be life threatening. A properly fitted shoe can help a diabetic [avoid] losing a toe, a foot, a leg.” About 75 percent of diabetics with foot problems or potential foot problems, he notes, can get 80 percent of the cost of their shoes and orthotics covered by Medicare.

Kirshner also points out that his work isn’t limited to feet. “We use the foot as a base to treat other related problems due to foot imbalance, such as ankle, knee and back problems.” At the same time, he says he has no reservations about referring clients to a doctor if he feels a problem is beyond his scope or hasn’t been properly diagnosed.

Although he’s pleased with the success of his business, the enterprising Kirshner has more plans in the works: specifically, a second shop, slated to open in the newly renovated Grove Arcade sometime this summer. While the new venture will provide many of the same services, says Kirshner, it will also include an on-site CAD/CAM system that produces an instant digital analysis of the customer’s feet. The information is relayed to another device that can create a customized foot bed within 6-8 minutes. This can be used as an orthotic or as the base of a customized sandal. Says Kirshner, “Everything will feel customized without a customized price tag.”

Store hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call 299-8681.

Diamond Brand opens Asheville branch for paddlers

Diamond Brand Outdoors — a retail business specializing in outdoor clothing and equipment — began in 1964 in a converted four-car garage attached to the Diamond Brand Canvas Products factory in Naples (which has been making backpacks, tents and camping accessories for more than a century.) The store has expanded over the years (it now covers more than 15,000 sq. feet on two floors). The latest retail venture, Diamond Brand Paddle Sports (172 Charlotte St. in Asheville), caters specifically to paddling enthusiasts.

“With a large group of paddlers in Western North Carolina, it was a natural extension of Diamond Brand to have a store devoted to them and to have a larger presence in the Asheville outdoor market,” explains Marketing Director Kirk Edwards.

The Asheville branch offers a full line of kayaks and canoes (representing nine different manufacturers) plus all the necessary accessories, including paddles, life jackets, clothing, shoes and sandals (both technical and fashionable), watches, sunglasses and much more. There’s also a big selection of books and videos (covering a wide variety of regional outdoor sports) and even a reading room. Customers can try out a demo canoe or kayak before deciding on a purchase; the store will also offer whitewater instruction through a company called Pisgah Whitewater.

Although the store has been open since Feb. 2, it will hold its grand opening on Saturday April 6, with giveaways and sales on selected items throughout the day. That evening, there will be a party at Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co. (675 Merrimon Ave.) starting at 8 p.m., complete with music and the premiere of Lunch Video Magazine No. 4 (a quarterly whitewater-kayaking video by Penstock Productions).

Store hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturdays and 1-6 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, call 251-4668.

Sheriff’s Department commends Center for Martial Arts

Earlier this year, Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford honored Carl Wilcox, Ph.D., director of the Center for Martial Arts in Asheville, with a special certificate of appreciation for the center’s ongoing support of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department and the community at large.

The center — which has provided martial-arts instruction and self-defense training to individuals and groups since relocating to the area in 1991 — has worked closely with the Sheriff’s Department for several years, using programs developed specifically to meet the needs of law-enforcement personnel.

Law-enforcement officers, says Wilcox, are among the groups most at-risk for stress-related illnesses worldwide. “Our program focuses on increasing each officer’s de-escalation skills and communication tools, while providing tactical-defense training. They end up with better violence-management techniques, and that in turn has a noticeable stress-reduction and team-building effect,” he explains.

Wilcox has worked actively with law enforcement since the mid-70s, and the center has worked with numerous local and national law-enforcement agencies as well as other groups and organizations in the region since 1993. Several years ago, the Center implemented “Bully Busters,” a safety-skills program for school-age children which it now presents regularly to students at all levels.

Wilcox, a longtime advocate of women’s self-defense, is a founding member of the N.C. Rape Awareness and Prevention Association. He also develops customized corporate training programs, including anti-terrorism tactics, built around the needs of individual businesses and organizations.

For more information on the Center for Martial Arts’ community programs, call 251-5425.

Women, get on board!

“Women! Your community needs you!” blares the brochure for the Buncombe County Women’s Commission’s March 23 Practical Skills Training Session.

The conference, cosponsored by UNCA’s Women’s Studies Program, offers a series of presentations and discussions on the nuts and bolts of getting appointed and serving effectively on government boards and commissions. Topics include “Why Get Involved?” and “Nuts and Bolts of the Appointment Process” and “Do I Find the Time or Make the Time?”

Speakers include Asheville City Council member Holly Jones, N.C. House Representative Wilma Sherrill, UNCA psychology professor Ann Weber, Asheville Vice Mayor Terry Bellamy and Blue Ridge Toastmasters President Althea Gonzalez.

The conference will be held at UNCA’s dining hall March 23, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The fee is $25 and includes lunch. For more information, call BCWC President Sarah Thornburg at 254-8800 or Pam Gretz at 298-4170.

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