The hidden gems of Philadelphia can be found in more than just the form of music, art, or food.
They can be found in the form of people who quietly dedicate themselves to what they believe in and make this city better for it. If you look closely enough, they are what make up the spirit of Philadelphia in business and community. Usually, these individuals go unnoticed.
In this article, we went looking for some excellent examples of women who are inspiring the next generation of female Philadelphians in business and community. These are not Pulitzer or Nobel nominees nor is anyone here posturing to run for president in 2020. They are everyday women, unsung heroes who set an example in entrepreneurship, business, mentorship, or community.
What Sets Her Apart: Service in legal space, top female lawyer
Marion Munley followed in her father’s footsteps, joining the family business, a Philadelphia law firm, as an attorney after law school. Marion states: “Our family has a long tradition of public service. And I think just being exposed to that from an early age gave me the desire to want to go into law.”
But she didn’t just blend into the firm. Marion has become instrumental in shaping the Munley Family’s practice as a national leader in a somewhat unusual niche; representing victims of commercial trucking incidents. In part, her special interest in this rather specific area of law developed after an elderly man was killed in a vehicle fire after being struck by a big rig. In the course of representing the elderly man’s family, she was able to uncover evidence that showed that the truck driver had driven coast to coast routes multiple times in a week, depriving himself of rest and ultimately leading to the accident.
More recently, Marion was instrumental in obtaining a record-breaking $26 million settlement for the family of an accident victim whose life and ability to function were permanently damaged after a traumatic brain injury from a serious truck accident in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Marion now chairs the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group and has been named a Top 50 Women “Super Lawyer” in Pennsylvania.
Halah Daun and Patty Pavlides
Metro Laser & Coolsculpting Medspa
What Sets Them Apart: Inspirational in entrepreneurship, extreme business turnaround, mentorship to young women
Halah and Patty became friends and eventually business partners through a shared love of the pursuit of the fountain of youth. Halah, now in her 70’s (though a colleague tells us she looks 50) and Patty both found themselves looking to reinvent themselves after Halah lost her husband in death and Patty had gone through a difficult divorce.
Halah and Patty’s passion for beauty and aesthetics led them to working with a failing regional medical spa on a business turn around project. Both women found that they had an innate talent for understanding and serving the needs and wants of clients. They slowly turned a failing brand around from ‘despised on Yelp’ and on the brink of closing to exploding with glowing reviews and referrals. One colleague who prefers to stay anonymous states, “Our business was broken. Literally everything from price points and what and how treatments were offered to customer service completely missed the mark. It would have been easier for Halah and Patty to start their own businesses from scratch than to turn this thing around. But they did it … and now we have a company that we’re all proud of”.
Today, Metro Laser is one of the largest providers of professional, medical grade skin and fat treatment providers in Philadelphia. Halah and Patty actively look for and employ young women that show promise and potential in business and personally mentor them in their unique brand of client first management.
The Student Loan Doctor
What Sets Her Apart: Entrepreneurship built on helping others leveraging her personal experience and expertise, provides innovative resource that fills an important gap in what is currently available to college grads.
Sonia Lewis, a 30-year-old Philly native has been making waves in the community ever since she decided to leverage her own experience with student loan debt to benefit others through mentorship. Sonia explains that student loan debt disproportionately affects African-American women.
She began her business, The Student Loan Dr. in 2016 to provide one on one coaching for students and recent graduates, helping them understand their debt and create a plan to get out of it.
On how she started down this path, Sonia states in an interview with The Shade Room;
“I started doing consulting for people in church, then the church sent the community, and the community sent friends. My passion started from my own debt. I needed to get myself together and sit my own self down. I felt like other people needed this too… Plus, I realized there were no classes to help people really understand their debt.”
Sonia is currently working on her doctorate and so has first hand experience with the difficulties of student debt. She now hosts clinics and workshops for high school and college-aged students and consults with those who are struggling under the crushing burden of student loan debt to come up with practical and creative solutions that work to get their financial lives back on track.
Philly Human Services
What Sets Her Apart: Young CEO, combining business with service that directly helps the disabled and elderly in the community.
In her early 30’s, Renee is (as far as we can tell) the youngest CEO in Philly in the field of in-home care services and Home-based community waiver programs. Renee’s company coordinates with Medicaid funding to provide disabled and elderly individuals with care that allows them to remain as independent as possible rather than being placed in a nursing home facility.
Renee’s agency coordinates everything from home delivered meals and assistance in basic needs like dressing and bathing to health care needs such as access to medical equipment and therapies.
After 7 years working in the Office of Long Term Living Programs and another 7 working in service coordination, Renee is a consummate professional in all things assisted living coordination. She currently employs three young women who work as case manager professionals including Angeline Davis, Tiffany Smith, and DJenne’ House. Together, all 4 young women are making a very real difference helping Philadelphia people who would otherwise endure a much lower quality of life without the help of these women with big hearts.
What Sets Her Apart: Thought leadership in the tech industry, built a business out of bringing a fresh voice to content development and UX, inspires women in business.
Sara Wachter-Boettcher owns a boutique content strategy and UX consultancy in Philadelphia called Rare Union. She is also the author of “Technically Wrong”, a book that examines bias in online marketing, services, and user experiences.
Sara developed a passion for exploring ways in which business, brands, and platforms can become better suited at serving people by becoming more sensitive to their individual experiences as human beings. The book is full of examples of everyday user experiences in apps and platforms that show sexist bias or socio-economic or racial assumptions. The term “users” in itself can dehumanize people unconsciously in the minds of developers and marketing teams. Sara has established herself as a tech industry thought leader and her book was named a Top Tech Book for 2017 by Wired as well as a Best Business and Leadership Book in 2017 by Fast Company.
At the beginning of 2018, Sara launched a podcast called No, You Go with two other Philly female notables, Jenn Lukas and Katel LeDû. The podcast aims to lend a feminist voice to modern life. The podcast’s homepage describes the show as: “A weekly podcast all about building satisfying careers and businesses, getting free of toxic bullshit, and figuring out how to live our best feminist lives at work. Plus, friendship, snacks, and bad TV.”
Philly PR Girl Public Relations Firm
What Sets Her Apart: Very local entrepreneurship based on a love of Philadelphia, mentorship of college students in her business
Kate Marlys has built a grown a successful Philadelphia PR agency that provides event planning, social media management, and marketing and promotions services. In 2010, while working in marketing and PR for nonprofits, Kate started a blog as a passion project to write about new and interesting things to see and do in Philadelphia. Within just two years, the blog, Philly PR Girlhad earned Kate enough attention that she had a regular pipeline of freelance PR work. In 2012 Kate made it official and left the corporate world to start her own agency.
Kate has a special penchant for helping clients who, like her, are female entrepreneurs in Philly. Kate also personally mentors several interns at any given time along with leading her 20 full time staff.
Kate cites her firm’s highly connected and super local focus as one thing that sets Philly PR Girl appart in the city. Kate is a great example of an entrepreneur following their passion to independence from the 9 to 5 corporate rat race. As Kate admits in an interview on Glabergirlblog.com, she works harder and has less time off than when she worked for someone else. But she is happier and more fulfilled than ever and enjoys mentoring college students in her craft most of all.
The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia
What Sets Her Apart: Turned her experience growing up in poverty and surrounded by crime into the expertise needed to be a compassionate leader in a career based on helping disadvantaged communities and in the improvement of Philadelphia.
Yvette’s story is a truly inspirational one of overcoming extreme disadvantage and poverty at a young age and growing up to become a leader in change to help Philadelphia’s poor and homeless. By age 11, Yvette was an orphan. She grew up in Newark, N.J. with five brothers who did not complete high school for various reasons all pertaining to the woes of living in a place where neighborhood violence, drugs, crime, and many privations make a successful path in life difficult to impossible for many. Yvette’s late brother, though in prison during much of her youth, encouraged her and helped her foster an interest in learning. Yvette completed her education and went on to college.
As Vice President of Civic Affairs at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, Yvette became the first Latina to hold a senior leadership role in the Philadelphia Chamber in its entire 216 year history.
One of the notable ways in which Yvette uses her life experience as well as professional expertises is in her role as head of The Roadmap for Growth, a long term initiative to collaborate with city officials and policy makers as well as a long list of corporations and institutions to continue Philadelphia’s proactive approach to solving problems or innovating improvements.
Some of the many initiatives led by Yvette and her colleagues include:
– Help create pro-business programs such as mentorships and access to capital for individual neighborhood populations.
– Help immigrants by promoting easier means of starting businesses with fewer obstacles.
– Improve the availability of programs to help vulnerable groups in Philadelphia such as the homeless and panhandlers.
– Provide thought to how the business community can support affordable housing, addiction recovery, and work re-entry programs.
– Work with partners such as staffing firms to place homeless with work opportunities.
– Support efforts to create more pre-K education programs as well as adult education programs.
Author, Activist, and Entrepreneur
What sets her apart: Innovation, a pioneer of the Farm-to-Table Movement joining sustainable agriculture with sustainable business practices.
In 1983 Judy founded Philly’s now famous White Dog Cafe. A restaurant offering local, seasonal and sustainable food decades before it became popular to throw around the term “farm-to-table”. Judy’s vision has always included supporting the surrounding community and growing the local economy, but her commitment to sustainability goes beyond the farmers, bakers, cheesemakers, and fishmongers who provide the bulk of what is served up at her 3 locations. The restaurants themselves are examples of environmental responsibility, using renewable energy, LED lighting, and supporting environmentally sustainable initiatives.
In 2000 Judy founded Fair Food Philly and in 2001, the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia and the nationwide (BALLE) Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. She has won numerous awards both locally and internationally for her culinary and humanitarian work.