Women in Business

Take a memo: Delaware’s businesswomen have the vision, ability and tenacity to build thriving companies. Meet executives who’ve succeeded despite unthinkable loss, financial obstacles or resistance from employees in male-dominated fields.

Chauntel Smith Hayward turned her mother’s vision into a lucrative business. A former kindergarten teacher in Dover, Smith Hayward left the profession to operate Rosa’s Greek Boutique, the family-owned operation founded by her mother, Rosa F. Smith, in 1984. The shop caters to African-American sororities and fraternities. While Rosa’s has always offered merchandise to a formerly untapped market, Smith Hayward created its online component, which afforded global business opportunities. As a result, Rosa’s serves more than 20,000 customers across the United States. “I’m passionate about our business because I’m able to put all of my skills and energy into something that has been handed down to me,” says Smith Hayward. “And I’ll hand it down to the next generation.”

Stretching the dollar Rosa Smith started her business with a $1,000 tax refund check.

Expansion In 2005 the Smith Hayward family established Transportation Unlimited, a private transportation business for homeless students.

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Lynda Messick knows banking. She has succeeded at just about every banking job there is. Starting as a teller at Wilmington Savings Fund Society in 1973, Messick was promoted several times, earning her executive stripes as branch manager before advancing to operations, compliance, marketing, corporate, lending and retail. Now president and CEO of Community Bank Delaware in Lewes, Messick is responsible for business development, marketing, strategic planning and budgeting at this $115 million-asset community bank. “Being a community banker is quite a bit different than the typical image brought to mind by the word ‘banker,’” says Messick. “A community banker is by definition more involved in, and attuned to, the community the bank serves.”

Experience to bank on Messick helped start two community banks.

From the ground floor up Messick developed the culture at Community Bank and selected a team that has made the organization profitable.

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Yukie Yamamoto, owner of Flowers By Yukie in Wilmington, opened her business in 1983, but honed her craft 42 years ago, when she worked at the now-defunct Penny Hill Flower Shop in Wilmington. She has survived in the business for a simple reason: She loves what she does. “Even when I go on vacation,” she says, “I think about arranging flowers.” Yamamoto, who trained in her native Japan, employs 18. One has worked for her for 22 years. While business at other shops has drooped during the recession, Yamamoto’s business remains fertile. Credit an upscale client base and lots of referrals. Yamamoto serves at least 400 customers with charge accounts, and business has grown 10 percent to 15 percent each year.

Her mantra “You might receive these flowers just once in your lifetime, so if I put my name on an arrangement, it has to be special.”

Mentor: Michael Christopher Hemphill, owner of Michael Christopher salon, gave Yamamoto her start. She set up shop in his salon before she opened her current business. “I owe him everything,” Yamamoto says.


Deborah A. Markwood understands the importance of estate planning. Her husband, pilot Tom Pitts, was killed while flying in July. “Tom didn’t like to think about his death,” says Markwood. “But I was able to kindly and compassionately make him understand how important it was to plan.” So it is with genuine solicitude that Markwood, senior vice president and director of trust services at WSFS, helps clients complete their estate plans and understand why they create them. When Markwood joined WSFS in August 2008, she brought more than 20 years of experience in business development for trust and investment services. She oversees all business development and trust services for WSFS Wealth Strategies in Delaware and Southeastern Pennsylvania. Markwood is a certified financial planner, a certified trust adviser and an accredited estate planner.

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From one who knows “You have to plan for the future, for a day when you are not around to take care of your loved ones.”

Her mentor David Ernst, a former colleague and a vice president at Wilmington Trust, “encouraged me and taught me just about everything I know. He believed in me, and I hope someday to be as good as he was.” Ernst passed away suddenly in 1999. He was 47.

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Marjorie Rothberg, principal of Marjorie Rothberg Architecture, opened her business in 1998, but she’s been a practicing architect for more than 25 years. She has earned several awards, most notably for projects that include The Shoppes at Louviers and Avon’s northeast regional headquarters, both in Newark. Rothberg, who is a registered architect in Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Colorado, spent a semester away from Yale University to attend the Universita Internazionale dell’Arte in Venice.

Peer Pressure “Although my academic universities (the University of Virginia and Yale) were fairly balanced between male and female students, the working world is male-dominated. By nature, any glass ceilings were transcended with a profound commitment and dedicated work ethic.”

Her Mentor Rothberg once worked for a firm whose main principal was dean of Princeton’s School of Architecture.


Two of the four partners at Cover & Rossiter, a Wilmington-based certified public accounting and advisory firm, are women, and 73 percent of its entire staff is female. The partners, Diane M. Burke (left) and Marie Holliday, have earned the trust of the region’s most prominent businesses, individuals, nonprofit organizations and foundations. Named a director in 2003, Burke specializes in trust and estate tax matters, and offers considerable expertise in estate and trust tax filings, estate administration and preparation of formal fiduciary accountings. As the firm’s head of corporate tax practice, Holliday focuses on finding tax-advantaged ways to operate companies during the various stages of the business cycle to influence future business growth and development.

Burke’s greatest accomplishment Leading the expansion of Cover & Rossiter and opening an office in Middletown.

Holliday’s triumph “My ability to manage a demanding career and still raise my three children.”

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  Chef Lisa DiFebo-Osias has been a foodie since childhood, when she watched her parents cast “this mysterious, magical food spell” on everyone they served. As a mother of three, as well as chef and co-owner of two popular restaurants, DiFebo-Osias has a full plate. Honoring her family’s love of food, DiFebo-Osias opened DiFebo’s Café and Deli in Bethany Beach in 1989. Three years later, she enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America, and became the first woman to earn a fellowship at the American Bounty Restaurant. She fulfilled her externship duties in South Beach, Florida, and worked the line with acclaimed chef Ricardo Tognozzi of Tuscany, Italy. In 1996 she and her husband, fellow CIA grad Jeff Osias, transformed the 40-seat café into the popular 125-seat DiFebo’s Restaurant, then opened DiFebo’s Bistro, a 100-seat restaurant and catering facility, in 2008.

Philanthropy DiFebo-Osias raised thousands for the victims of 9-11 and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. She has hosted events for the Sisters of the Poor, La Esperanza, and many other charities. Her efforts earned her the Ruth Ann Minner Achievement Award.

A people person “I have an amazing opportunity day after day, night after night, to move people, to make them feel good, and to bring them together.”

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Society sings the praises of the rich and sometimes infamous. A mission of The Jefferson Awards for Public Service is to praise the unsung and not-so-rich—the real heroes who make our communities better. As the foundation’s national director, Patricia L. Dill builds relationships with corporate partners and develops and runs active employee volunteer recognition programs. One of her main goals is to help young people understand the importance of volunteerism, and to hone skills in leadership and ethical decision-making.

A writer at heart Dill is responsible for seeking out and writing nominations for National Jefferson Awards recipients.

That’s showbiz Dill is the former general manager of the DuPont Theatre. She was a member of the League of American Theatres and Producers, now known as The Broadway League, and was the sole Tony Awards voter in Delaware.


Chris Favilla intended to be a U.S. ambassador, but grew frustrated while interning in college for the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg, France. “I was able to work on bills and European union activities with countries across Europe,” she says, “but it took so long to achieve common goals.” She went into banking instead, because it offered similar opportunities to engage with different cultures. Now in her fifth year as president of Discover Bank in New Castle, the ex-Wall Street exec leads an institution that has grown from $3 billion in direct-to-consumer deposits in 2007 to more than $17 billion in 2010. “Throughout my career, I haven’t developed new patented technology,” she says, “but I’ve specialized in taking something you already have and building opportunities around it to make it grow more profitably.”

Noteworthy accomplishments Favilla is president of the Delaware Financial Literacy Institute, which provides free classes on money management to 3,500 Delawareans.

Her mentors They include leaders such as PNC’s Connie Bond Stuart and Richelle Vible of Catholic Charities. Her aunt, Paula Dolan-Pare, entertained for the USO, performed for the Queen of England, had her own TV show, and went back to school at age 50 to earn a master’s degree in gerontology.

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Achieving sustainable growth is one of the key missions at DuPont. Linda J. Fisher, the vice president of DuPont Safety as well as its health and environment chief sustainability officer, is responsible for DuPont’s sustainable growth strategy across all business functions. “My role is to provide strategic direction for the company on key sustainability issues and initiatives such as reducing our carbon footprint and developing renewable energies,” says Fisher. “My team and I continuously work to integrate sustainability into the business through scientific processes and innovation, and we’re always on the lookout for opportunities to bring it to the forefront of product development.”

The structure Each of DuPont’s key 13 business units has sustainability leaders and team members.

The role of the CSO The role is shifting from a focus on compliance and regulatory issues to opportunities for growth. There is significant focus on climate and energy now, but it’s Fisher’s job to understand what’s next.


Trish Fitzharris is president of Service Quest Inc., a leading expert in food safety systems for the school nutrition industry in the tri-state area. She founded the organization in 2000 to increase food safety awareness and build confidence in schools, and she has earned the trust of countless school administrators. Fitzharris provides food safety education, training and technology to more than 300 sites a month. Also president of GR8 Marketing, a national company that provides educational development tools to the school nutrition industry, Fitzharris was named Industry Member of the Year by the Delaware School Nutrition Association in 2006.

A major victory In July 2005 the USDA required every school in the country to comply with tough food-safety protocols. Fitzharris was one of 18 educators in the country selected to teach the plan.

Her mentor Former boss Hap Galer, of Galer and Hults, a maintenance supply company based in Horsham, Pennsylvania, “gave me 18 months to turn a struggling division around or he was closing the doors. I was 23.” She succeeded. So Galer asked her to develop a food-safety division. The rest is history.

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If you’re a Bank of America client, you’ve probably received communication scrutinized by Leslie Gillin, BOA’s direct response and analytical marketing executive. Gillin, who leads a team of 500 professionals, is responsible for all direct marketing and targeted communications for BOA’s consumer and small business bank, including insurance for more than 60 million households and 4 million small-business customers. Gillin has served BOA in Dallas, Canada and England. When she returned to Delaware in 1999, she headed the multicultural marketing group and was responsible for new sales, marketing and partnerships with the NAACP, United Negro College Fund and Asian American Association, as well as U.S. Hispanic and Puerto Rico Marketing.

Moving up Gillin joined BOA as a telesales associate in 1990.

Greatest challenge “To run marketing for the U.S. Consumer Card business during one of the most challenging economic periods in our lives.”


Cynthia Hewitt, a Merrill Lynch financial adviser in Wilmington, gets lots of ink. She has been recognized in the annual Barron’s list of America’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors for five straight years, as well as on its America’s Top 1000 State-by-State list as the No. 1-ranked adviser in Delaware. In 2009 Registered Red magazine named Hewitt one of the Top 100 Advisors in the Nation. Hewitt, who joined Merrill Lynch in 1976, sits on the investment committees of the Delaware Community Foundation, The Tatnall School and the Ulster Project-Delaware. She also is a founding senior partner of the HART Group at Merrill Lynch, as well as a founder of the Fund for Women in Delaware.

Her passion “Helping families make the most of their wealth, whether that’s for providing income in retirement, proper estate planning or philanthropic wishes.”

No I in team: “I have helped put together a first-rate team of investment professionals to better help our clients navigate the growing complexities of the financial services industry.”

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As owner and principal designer of Kitchens by Design, Catherine Hodgins works with some of the best contractors in the region. She has studied interior design in Paris and Milan, and at UD and the Philadelphia College of Fine Arts. Hodgins stays abreast of design trends by traveling to Europe and Asia, and she regularly attends kitchen and bath industry shows in the United States and Italy. With 24 years of experience, she has designed kitchens around the world, and her work has been featured in several national publications. Hodgins also was featured in HGTV’s “Mission: Organization” and two episodes of “Kitchen Trends.” Her clients always have the last word. “After going through the process of understanding the client’s needs, design, selections and installation,” she says, “the realization of the project is most rewarding.”

The whole enchilada Hodgins was commissioned to create blueprints for the interior of a 15,000-square-foot house. “I designed and provided cabinetry and countertops for two kitchens, 10 bathrooms, two bars, a butler’s pantry, a laundry room and two libraries.”

All in the family Hodgins’ first cousin, William Hodgins, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a renowned interior designer.


There’s no power like girl power. Just ask Anne T. Hogan, the CEO of Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay. “I see first-hand the impact of our fundraising in girls whose lives are touched and changed—sometimes even turned around—by our programs,” says Hogan. Hogan oversaw the construction of the Lynn W. Williams Science and Technology Lodge, the first building in Delaware to earn platinum certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. She also expanded the council’s Women of Distinction programs and helped drive up enrollments at Girl Scout summer camps. The Girl Scout Outreach Program grew under Hogan’s watch, with programs reaching more than 16,800 girls.

Most noteworthy accomplishment “Our council has met the challenge from Girl Scouts of the USA to transition into a high-performing, high-capacity, outcomes-based organization.”

Serious stats Sixty-three percent of the women elected to the U.S. Congress were Girl Scouts, as were 28 of NASA’s female astronauts and 70 percent of female CEOs in the United States.

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Christina Cultural Arts Center executive director Raye Jones Avery is one of Delaware’s most passionate supporters of equal educational opportunities. She also serves on the governance board of Kuumba Academy Charter School, which is one of five schools in the state to earn a federal award for closing the achievement gap for African-American students, Hispanic students and students with disabilities. “This success demonstrates that African-American and Hispanic students possess exceptional, multiple intelligences,” says Jones Avery. “Given the right set of conditions at home and at school, they have the ability to excel. No more excuses.”

Staying power CCAC is celebrating its 65th anniversary. Jones Avery has led its staff for 19 years and its partnership with Kuumba Academy for 10 years.

Connections Jones Avery was appointed by former Governor Ruth Ann Minner to serve on the LEAD Committee, then by Governor Jack Markell to his transition team.


Carey Pauley (pictured, left) and Christine Kendle are the owners of The Pink Turtle, an upscale gift shop in Greenville. The Pink Turtle caters to consumers who believe that a home is a reflection of personal taste and lifestyle. In other words, the owners know their customers. Business has already exceeded expectations, but this success was born of tragedy. Pauley lost her 10-year-old-daughter, Savannah, on September 13, 2009, after a battle with cancer. While Pauley had always wanted to open a boutique, she struggled to make sense of life after Savannah’s death. It was Kendle, her friend and running partner, who suggested they open a gift and accessory boutique.

What’s in a name? Both “pink” and “turtle” refer to Savannah. She was an honorary member of the women’s running club, The Turtles, and her favorite color was pink. The owners honor Savannah’s legacy by offering a line of SavannahStrong merchandise. “SavannahStrong is the phrase that was inspired by Savannah’s accomplishments and her incredible spirit while living with cancer,” says Pauley. All proceeds from SavannahStrong merchandise go to a different charity every month.

Money well spent SavannahStrong merchandise generated more than $2,000 in its first 10 weeks on the market. The money allowed The Pink Turtle to help pay tuition to Salesianum School for a boy whose father had cancer. Funds also were distributed to three children who lost their mother to cancer.

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Judy Lewis, the senior Human Resources generalist and learning consultant at Wilmington Trust, is also an information technology wiz. Her first decade at Wilmington Trust was spent as a programmer analyst and manager in the IT department. But she is no geek. This double threat changed career paths in 2006. In short order, Lewis developed and expanded the company’s internship and summer hire programs. She also partnered with the Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired to hire staffers. Lewis also helped develop the bank’s Kaleidoscope Cross-Cultural Networking event, which is designed to build relationships with women and candidates of color with leadership potential.

Diversity: More than a word Lewis is a member of the company’s Diversity Council, as well as Career Moves, a development program offered through a staff networking group called BEACON (Blacks Empowered and Committed through Opportunities and Networking).

A superstar Actually, she’s a Super Achiever, as named by Wilmington Trust. The award is given each year to 1 percent of Wilmington Trust staff members.


Ever hear the one about the editor who starts a new publication in the middle of a recession? It’s no joke. Editor and publisher Andréa Miller chuckled in the face of economic adversity and created Laugh!, a Delaware-based humor, arts and culture tabloid. “From a business perspective, it seemed that small- to mid-sized businesses were being priced out of print media advertising, and that established print media venues were cutting a lot of fun content to meet tight budgets,” Miller says. Laugh! offers great rates to advertisers and fun content to readers. But after Laugh!’s successful launch party, two partners resigned, and Miller had to fly solo. “It took a few months to learn to juggle hats…but I’m back on track and have every reason to believe the magazine is on course for ample belly laughs and jingling coin in pocket.”

Count ’em As a former reporter for The Community News, Miller won more Delaware Press Association awards for writing and photography than any other DPA member to date.

She’s got rhythm Miller also is an artist and cellist, having studied fine arts at Carnegie Mellon University and The Cleveland Institute of Art.

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As executive director and cofounder of the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Carol Post is a leader on domestic violence issues in Delaware. Under her guidance, DCADV has grown in both size and scope to include a range of programs that improve Delaware’s response to domestic violence scenarios. Her staff of nine trains more than 1,500 professionals a year. Post, who also is engaged in policy and systems advocacy, implements public education and media outreach efforts on an ongoing basis. Her organization is one of only 14 state coalitions funded through the Centers for Disease Control.

Why college papers matter As a graduate student at UD, Post researched outcomes of domestic violence cases in Delaware’s Family Court. Her findings provided support for establishment of a volunteer-based court advocacy program that continues to help victims of domestic violence. Post is a 2008 recipient of UD’s Alumni Wall of Fame Award.

Court in session The State of Delaware Superior Court qualified Post as an expert witness for domestic violence cases.


As the Delaware Art Museum approaches its 100th anniversary in 2012, Danielle Rice is working to grow its endowment. “A healthy museum should draw its operating revenues roughly in equal parts from earned income, annual fundraising and revenues from the investment earnings generated by an endowment,” says Rice, executive director since 2005. The museum was on the road to fiscal stability when the market crash in 2008 eliminated $10 million from its investment portfolio. In 2009 Rice announced that her staff would take 10 percent pay cuts, yet managed to keep them motivated. Under Rice, individual giving has increased, as have partnerships with organizations such as the Latin American Community Center and the Hanlin Chinese Center. The museum has also adopted several troubled schools and is working with various arts and community service organizations to bring the visual arts to students.

On mentoring Three of Rice’s former interns became museum directors this year.

Cost savings The museum draws exhibits from its own collections, which saves thousands of dollars.

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Mary Sears, owner of Sweet Serenity Chocolates in Seaford, didn’t know that whipping up chocolate for her own wedding would change her life. But when friends tasted the confections, they encouraged her to start a business. Thus Sweet Serenity Chocolates was founded in 2005. “In preparing for my wedding, I researched the history of wedding favors,” says Sears. “By combining what I learned from my research with my secret-recipe truffles, I was literally creating tasteful memories, one sweet bite at a time.” Sears started small, offering product samples to local businesses. Her line grew, as did her truffle recipes. While Sears’ core products are buttercream truffles, she has developed a line of chocolate-covered pretzels and gourmet apples. Her online business has increased 10 percent each year since 2006, when she went high-tech.

True foodie “My passion for food came honestly. I cooked with my brothers and sisters and learned the meaning of sharing valuable time over a meal.”

What’s in a name? A lot of heart. Her close friend Arlene, who passed away in 2007, read The Serenity Prayer to Sears during a visit in 2005. “We just both looked at each other and said, ‘Sweet Serenity.’”


Joni Silverstein is known in Delaware business circles for her past work as vice president of market development for The News Journal. But fans of the Smart Talk Lecture Series at the DuPont Theatre—originally called Unique Lives and Experiences—remember her as its charismatic emcee, who introduced and interviewed icons such as Coretta Scott King, Lesley Stahl and Mary Tyler Moore. Silverstein has changed paths, working to “give back to a community that gave so much to me,” she says. As director of the Delaware Girls Initiative, Silverstein advocates for girls who are in or at risk of becoming a part of the juvenile justice system. She helps identify programs and opportunities that help girls find their voices. Silverstein is back on the podium, too, emceeing for Delaware Women, the lecture series she created for the Delaware Girls Initiative. The new program already boasts two successful lectures, both held at co-sponsor Pizza by Elizabeths in Greenville.

Serious role model Silverstein worked with several nonprofit organizations and businesses to create partnerships and programs that address community needs.

Her mentor Curtis Riddle, president and publisher at The News Journal and senior group president at Gannett. “He taught me that it’s OK to be me and that I could be honest with him about what I thought of different programs.”

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Jennifer Simon has come a long way since her days as an advertising copywriter in New York. She made the most of her 11 years in the Big Apple, including developing and launching the exclusive Martha Stewart Living gift basket and food line for 1-800-FLOWERS, which increased sales 35 percent. When Simon moved back to her native Wilmington in 2009, she used her branding and creative conceptual knowledge while building a successful second career in merchandising. She founded Simon & Co., an Internet-based specialty foods and gifts shop. Simon sends her Simply Delicious foods in reusable containers instead of traditional gift baskets, and hand-selects all offerings.

Praise from Oprah Simon’s work has been featured on the 2002 holiday list in O, The Oprah Magazine.

Happy holidays Simon will offer 150 gifts this season at SimonandCo.com. Gifts include foods as well as spa, baby and pet goods.


Members of the nonprofit Downtown Milford Inc. have worked since 1993 to restore the charm of downtown Milford. Their efforts have paid off. Milford’s downtown businesses are booming, and women corner its retail market. Notable female leaders and owners include, from left: Teri Carter of EcoChic Boutique, Rhonda Bond of LadyBug Shop, Michiko Seto of Blooming Boutique, Leigh Minor Nagy of Minorbird and Gail Angelucci of Angelucci Fine Woodworking & Stained Glass Studios.

Of note Angelucci held a leadership role in the creation of Milford’s Riverwalk Center for the Arts, which features 6,000 square feet of studio and gallery space.


Marian R. Young is cofounder and president of BrightFields Inc., a 35-person environmental consulting and energy services company. When she helped start the company seven years ago, she was responsible for all facets of technical and administrative work, including logging wells, collecting soil and water samples and managing brownfield remediation. Now she focuses on staff mentoring, business development, major program management, client relations and strategic planning. Young’s greatest accomplishment is her work at the Christina Riverfront. “Our environmental team has worked for years on the riverfront redevelopment, for the state of Delaware, city of Wilmington, transportation engineers and private developers,” she says. “It’s been amazing to see all the new residential, commercial and retail buildings, roads, walkways, parks and museums emerge out of this formerly industrial area.”

Keep on truckin’ Young restarted her career after being laid off from a Pennsylvania company in 1993.

Future plans BrightFields plans to grow as a regional firm, and is positioned to bid on contracts with the Army Corps of Engineers and its prime contractors.

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