Eastern Mennonite University

Spring 2008

Multi-Tasking Mothers in Multi-Businesses

Allison Pierantoni Wilson
Allison Pierantoni Wilson ’86

The stories behind the women pictured and listed in the "Enterprising Folks" photo collection (PDF) and the business alumni directory (PDF) often echo that of Grace Witmer Styer ’79 in this sense: It seems that many EMU alumnae manage to combine roles of raising children with carrying heavy responsibilities in the business world.

As their children grow and become independent, these women often assume responsibility for a number of business endeavors, as if juggling multiple demands cannot possibly faze them.

“Certainly the most challenging part of being a woman in business has been the conflicting demands on my time, especially during the summers or when a child was sick,” said Grace.

“Fortunately, I had a partner that was a real partner in parenting. Having Alan’s business on our home property also made it possible for us. He was the one that got the kids off the bus… Also my mother watched our kids and did our laundry for years, so I could help with the businesses. It would have been very difficult to do the jobs I do without all that support.”

Karen Kurtz Gross

In Atlanta, Karen Kurtz Gross ’75 is involved in four businesses. She is the chief financial officer for the family company, Sticky Business (www.stickybusiness.net). This company prints and installs large-format graphics on vehicles, walls and buildings. Her husband, Joel Gross ’76, is the chief executive officer.

Karen also owns My Mama Had That, a shop offering antiques and collectibles in Decatur, Georgia. In addition, she is a private contractor, offering her nurse practitioner services for about seven hours a week to residents in a senior independent-living community. Finally, she is the co-founder and co-manager of a Ten Thousand Villages store in Atlanta.

Beginning in 1990 Karen pooled her savings with that of elementary teacher Marg Lambert. They bought fairly traded crafts and sold them in homes and at churches. By 1993 they had raised enough money to open a Ten Thousand Villages store. (Ten Thousand Villages, www.tenthousandvillages.com, markets fairly traded home decor and gift items made by artisans from around the world who would otherwise be unemployed or under-employed.)

The children of Karen and Joel Gross, Conrad and Amanda, both came to EMU for their undergraduate studies.

Donna Kraus Parrish and Allison Pierantoni Wilson

Donna Kraus Parrish, EMU alum
Donna Kraus Parrish '81

Donna Kraus Parrish ’81, the mother of three children, and Allison Pierantoni Wilson ’86, married to John ’86 and mother of two, recently joined forces to launch Dana DZigns, which markets artisan-woven and textile products produced by the Priscilla Centres in northeast India.

Donna and Allison explain that the Priscilla Centres help empower poverty-stricken women, most rescued from “red-light” districts and often HIV positive (www.priscillacentre.com). The women are taught region-specific sewing and weaving skills, along with skills needed for business and daily living. “I am thankful that I can combine my love of India with the skills I’ve developed in business,” says Donna.

Donna co-owns, with her husband Timothy, Cornerstone Foundations (www.cfpours.com). The company provides complete foundation services, including footers, walls, slabs and waterproofing. Donna takes care of administrative matters, such as benefits and personnel. Allison, a certified public accountant, does the books. Allison’s husband John, is in charge of business development.

Meanwhile Allison is co-owner with Donna of a third company called Valley Stone Slinger Services. This six-year-old business consists of three specialized trucks that not only haul the gravel to a job site, but “sling” the gravel 70-plus feet via a conveyor arm attached to the truck.

“Being a mom first and a business woman second has been a wonderful life so far,” says Donna. “My business interests and endeavors expanded as my children grew up, so the mom/career conflict has not been overwhelmingly significant.”

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