Last week, Women Business Owners – a regional group aimed at empowering and assisting female business owners – named Jill Blankenship, founder of Frontline Call Center in Orcas Island, its 2014 Nellie Cashman Woman Business Owner of the Year.

Three Eastside business owners were finalists in the annual competition: Makaylaa Powers of Visiting Angels; Niki McKay of Blue Danube Productions; and Andrea Duffield of MOSAIC Children’s Therapy Clinic. We asked each of the finalists to share some of their stories, and you’ll find their answers below.

 

Makaylaa Powers of Visiting Angels. Photo by Alice Hayes Photography

Makaylaa Powers of Visiting Angels. Photo by Alice Hayes Photography

Makaylaa Powers, executive director/owner, Visiting Angels

Powers purchased Visiting Angels in 2004. Her company provides non-medical home care to older adults on the Eastside and in North Seattle, allowing them to stay in their homes.

What led you to choose home care as your business?

In 1996, I had taken care of my mother who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and my stepfather who had dementia for the last seven months of my mother’s life. In 2004, when considering retirement and finding that not an interesting option for me, I was introduced to the home care business and realized it was perfect for me. I had come to understand the needs and concerns of seniors who can no longer care for themselves and want to age in the comfort of their own homes.

Share a memorable moment in your professional life.

One of our caregivers instinctively knew her client was going to pass away one evening. She bathed the client, changed her linens, dressed her in beautiful lingerie, and did her nails. She brought flowers into her room, lit candles, and called the family in to say their good-byes. I was so touched by her generous spirit.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would be more prepared with knowledge about what it actually takes to build and run a business.

 

Niki McKay of Blue Danube Productions. Photo by Alice Hayes Photography

Niki McKay of Blue Danube Productions. Photo by Alice Hayes Photography

Niki McKay, principal, Blue Danube Productions

In 2007, Niki McKay started Blue Danube Productions, an award-winning production company specializing in audio-visual design and technology including video, projection, audio, lighting, stage design, venue selection, and more.

What led you to create a production company?

Theater has been a passion of mine since childhood. Once I had children of my own, I was a part of some major children’s programs — singing, dancing, directing, and producing. One thing led to the next, and I was prompted to start my own company and change the face of audio visual production by offering a level of service not offered elsewhere.

Share a memorable moment in your professional life.

As my event production company was off and running, little did I anticipate the “worst days” happening so early in my company’s history. Not long after my divorce, while I was supporting myself and two children, I learned my business partner and operations manager were secretly building a rival company to be my direct competition. With all the broken trust and our limited funds being threatened, my ability to move forward and grow the firm was curtailed.

Through those days of rebuilding, I appreciated my inspiring network of friends and associates and an incredible legal team that truly believed in what Blue Danube Productions was designed to become. I gathered strength and confidence, establishing my custom-made inner armor. I moved on, hit the sales road, worked every show, developed an amazing staff and Team Blue Danube prevailed!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Acknowledge and accept that fear is always going to show up to some degree. Use the fear to empower, drive you, and propel you forward.

 

Andrea Duffield of MOSAIC Rehabilitation. Photo by Alice Hayes Photography

Andrea Duffield of MOSAIC Rehabilitation. Photo by Alice Hayes Photography

Andrea Duffield, president, MOSAIC Children’s Therapy Clinic

Andrea Duffield is the president of MOSAIC Children’s Therapy Clinic, a therapist-owned company that provides physical, occupational, behavioral,and speech therapy services in Seattle, Bellevue and Mountlake Terrace.

What is the vision for your company?

MOSAIC has remained rooted in the vision outlined in my original business plan: Create a difference in the lives of those we serve. MOSAIC does this by providing a safe, nurturing place of care for families and children.

Share a memorable moment in your professional life.

In 2010, I learned that I carried the BRCA1 gene mutation, which increased my risk for breast and ovarian cancer to nearly 90 percent. After learning that I also had a lump on my left side, I made the difficult decision to undergo a double mastectomy and oophorectomy. Over the course of the following year, I had multiple unexpected complications, which required five additional surgeries and long absences from work. While the length of my absences was unexpected, my team and I prepared for my decreased availability. Through teamwork, technology and sheer will, we were able to continue moving MOSAIC on its planned path. I will always be grateful for the extra effort and compassion which my team showed during this difficult time.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to go for it. Time is precious. If you have ideas for what you want to do then reach for them – just be smart about how you do it. I wish that I had understood more on running the business when I started. Cash flow is king – that should be the first and most important lesson for any small business.

 

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