Featured #bloomgirls: Kelly, Jill, Martina, and Laura of the Wings for Success Team!

This month’s featured #bloomgirls are the ladies behind Wings for Success: Kelly, Jill, Martina, and Laura! Wings for Success was formed in 1997 by a group of women who saw that having work-appropriate attire was a barrier to finding a job. Over the years, Wings has grown from an all-volunteer run organization, to a high-functioning professional organization with four staff supported by a group of over 120 active volunteers. They have sites in Frazer and Kennett Square, PA. Wings has helped more than 13,500 women obtain the clothing, advice, and employment preparation needed to become self-sufficient! We love their mission and we are so inspired by the ladies behind the brand. Read more about these incredible women below. 

Top Left: Laura Szilier Top Right: Martina Bersak

Bottom Left: Jill Laufenberg Bottom Right: Kelly Quant

 

Kelly Quant

Program Manager for Wings for Success in Kennett Square, PA

Owner & Founder of Thrill of Thrifting, LLC

Resale Expert with the Award-Winning Team at Main Line Fashionista

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Kelly and I am a 30-year-old creative, driven person married to my husband Cesar aka the best guy around and a stepmom to a super cool teenager named Destiney. I am passionate about two main things: thrift shopping and empowering women on their journey to success. I have the opportunity to pursue both of these passions in my career as well as my side business! I am the bilingual Program Manager in Kennett Square, PA for Wings for Success, a nonprofit organization that empowers women by equipping them with clothing for employment as well as job readiness services like resume building and interview preparation. In my own personal entrepreneurial journey, I own a business called Thrill of Thrifting to inspire people to shop secondhand for the sake of their wallet and our environment. I am also the Resale Expert with a powerhouse team of stylists at Main Line Fashionista. In this role, I collaborate with local businesses such as resale shops and sustainable companies to promote their products as we work together to strengthen our community during this unique time. In addition to thrift shopping in my spare time, I love hanging out with my family eating treats, and watching movies together. Fun fact is that I am fluent in Spanish! I can also sing and play the guitar.

What does your involvement with Wings for Success look like? 

As the bilingual Program Manager for the Kennett Square location, I oversee our services for women in southern Chester County, PA and surrounding areas. My role responsibilities include collaborating with local community partners, identifying the needs of women in our community, recruiting and managing volunteers, creating social media content, planning events, and facilitating workshops. One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that our workshop program had to completely transition to online workshops and I had the opportunity to become more involved with the Wings for Success Workshop Committee. We successfully reached more women in 2020 than the previous two years combined because of the accessibility of the online program as well as the growing needs of women in our community. I am honored to have a job that gives me the opportunity to empower women on a daily basis, whether that is through providing essential clothing for employment or equipping women with job readiness skills. I love that Wings for Success welcomes all women through their doors, giving them a chance to regain their confidence to achieve their career dreams.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

My husband is my biggest inspiration. Learning more about the challenges he overcame in his past as a single father has inspired me on my journey as a stepmom. Cesar is so dedicated to our family and wants nothing more than to see Destiney and I achieve our goals. He cheers me on in my thrifting adventures even on my hardest days of self-doubt. I have to also give a shout-out to all of the women in my life including friends, family, coworkers, and colleagues. They believe in me and support my dreams. Whether it’s through sharing one of my YouTube videos with a friend or sending information to their network about donating to Wings for Success, my support system goes above and beyond. I also find a lot of my inspiration and motivation through following and supporting other female entrepreneurs. 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, personally or professionally? How have you overcome it?

Stepparenting has personally been the biggest challenge I have faced and also the most rewarding experience. Communication is one of our family’s strengths and has helped us grow together as a blended family. Here is a short video I created for the Wings for Success “Dreams for our Daughters” campaign that shows my story as a stepmom. 

If you could talk to yourself 5 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” - Arthur Ashe, Professional Tennis Player - I came across this quote about two years ago and I would go back 5 years or more and give myself this advice. When I started my business, we experienced some issues with our living situation and had to abruptly move into a much smaller space that made it more challenging for me to run my business, particularly storing my clothing inventory for my Poshmark closet. I wanted to lean on my excuses and push everything off until the “perfect” time. This quote along with my husband’s daily encouragement kept me going and made me realize that just moving forward is better than waiting. No time is the perfect time and done is better than perfect!  

What are some key books/learning experiences that helped shape you/your business?

Learning about the impact of fast fashion and the extensive amount of textile waste really opened my eyes to the benefits of shopping secondhand, further inspiring me to pursue my Thrill of Thrifting business. When I learned more about the mission of Wings for Success and how they empower women through repurposing clothing donations, I applied for the Kennett Square Program Manager position. I am truly inspired by female entrepreneurs and women who have chased their dreams while empowering other women along the way. I enjoy listening to the Goaldigger Podcast run by Jenna Kutcher and her team for weekly inspiration. Hearing the stories of other successful women motivates me to not only pursue my goals but to also inspire others to pursue their goals.

What are your favorite bloom products, and why?

I absolutely love the Ultimate Planner Notebook because it has everything in one place. I can plan my week, plan for the month, take notes, and even have a coloring break! I also love the bloom stickers because they add a fun touch to my plans and notes!

 

 

Jill Laufenberg

Executive Director for Wings for Success

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I am the mom of a teenager, the wife of a skier (my​ winters revolve around this sport), a portrait artist, love to travel and spend time with friends!

How did Wings for Success get its start?

Wings was started back in 1997 when a group​ of women from Chester County were inspired by Oprah talking about the late 90's initiative "Welfare to Work.” They decided they could assist local women with interview outfits through their network alone! The original Wings team contacted local social service agencies and job training programs that were already working with women transitioning to the workforce. Using their own vehicles, they transported clothing to these agencies to help women prepare for interviews and employment. It started in one of their basements and moved into a larger space that was donated by the local hospital. Now we have two locations and are serving over 1000 women a year! In Wings' early days, we outfitted women primarily in professional clothing. With the recent move to more business-casual attire, we began filling our well-stocked closet with primarily donated clothing and accessories appropriate for many types of employment including food service, medical, agriculture, and more. We expanded beyond interview clothes and provide clothing needs for all fields of employment and everyday clothing for those who are in crisis like homelessness or domestic violence. Wings for Success empowers women to pursue employment and economic stability by providing work-appropriate clothing, one-on-one advice sessions, and job readiness workshops. Over the years, Wings has grown from an all-volunteer run organization to a high-functioning professional organization with four staff supported by a group of over 120 active volunteers. Since its founding, Wings has helped more than 14,000 women obtain the clothing, advice, and employment preparation needed to become self-sufficient. 

What does your involvement with Wings for Success look like?

I am the Executive​ Director and have been a part of Wings for 3 years. I handle all fundraising and stakeholder cultivation.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

My adopted son from Ethiopia is my biggest​ He spent the first 10 years of his life as an orphan and came to the States with only the clothes on his back and a tiny ziplock bag with toiletries. He is incredibly grateful and gracious. And while he doesn't like to talk about Ethiopia because it is too painful for him, he is proud of his heritage and his unique name which strangers cannot say correctly. He inspires me to be grateful for what I have and to not stress the small stuff.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, personally or professionally? How have you overcome it?

4 years ago this month is the anniversary of a mental breakdown due to​ situational depression. Because of a number of things happening in my personal and professional life, I couldn't sleep, waking to anxiety attacks throughout the night. Doctors say that I had PTSD after bringing an unstable individual into our home that we thought we were helping. It took me around 6 months of heavy medication, 1 year of counseling, and 2 years of healthy eating & exercising to finally feel like I was on the other side of the depression.

If you could talk to yourself 5 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?

Surround yourself with the right people and take care of your body/mind. Making time for yourself is not selfish, but necessary.

What are some key books/learning experiences that helped shape you/your business?

To realize that I might not be able to control everything but to know that it​ always works out in the end. To also recognize that I cannot do everything on my own but to surround myself with others who have strengths that compliment my own...because working with people I enjoy and trust only makes me more successful.

What are your favorite bloom products, and why?

My daily planner! First of all, it is my​ first bloom product, but I appreciate the weekly priorities section, goal tracking and the habit tracking sections. I love having all of these things in one place!

 

Martina Bersak

Program Manager for Wings for Success in Frazer, PA

Tell us a little bit about yourself! -​ My name is Martina Bersak and I grew up in a small European country called Slovakia (former Czechoslovakia).  I always enjoyed traveling and exploring life in other countries.  After completing my graduate studies in my home country, I started to work for an international company that offered me to relocate and to join a team in the US.   After years of corporate career and volunteering, I feel very fortunate to continue my mission of helping others in an organization such as Wings for Success. Outside of work, you will find me the happiest enjoying time with my family - husband and our two daughters. 

What does your involvement with Wings for Success look like?

I am the program manager at our Frazer, PA Wings for Success location.  At Wings, we aim to provide women a unique experience through their dressing appointment.  In addition to equipping them with professional clothing, we want them to see their own beauty and feel more confident when they leave Wings.  In addition to our clothing program, we offer workshops and one-on-advice sessions. 

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

My daughters. They are my biggest inspiration to keep moving and making the world a better place. 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, personally or professionally? How have you overcome it?

A couple of years ago my daughter had to undergo major surgery and​    that year we had many appointments with different medical specialists, surgeons, and radiology departments.  All I could think of at that time was how to make sure my girl is going to be ok and healthy again.  That year also brought very challenging projects at work and my husband was launching a start-up business.  Our daughter's resilience and strength amaze me every day and I feel we came out stronger as a family.

If you could talk to yourself 5 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?

It's all going to work out!

What are some key books/learning experiences that helped shape you/your business?

My elementary teacher had a great influence on me because she was and still is an amazing example of kindness, courage, and how you can always learn new things at any age. 

What are your favorite bloom products, and why?

I love the daily planners! It helps me to keep organized and it is lovely to see the encouraging notes and quotes. 

 

Laura Szilier

Communications Specialist for Wings for Success

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I'm a 43-year old wife, mother of 2 teenagers, and the Communications Specialist for Wings for Success, a local non-profit based in Chester County, PA that provides apparel, advice & advocacy for women in our community. Originally from Ontario, Canada, I moved to the United States in 2000 after graduating from university. My father was transferred to the U.S. for his job so we relocated to Virginia, but I eventually moved to Pennsylvania after meeting my husband once we decided to get married (he is from this area.) I love music (especially going to concerts and playing piano), reading, skiing, the beach, hanging out with friends and I even dabble in a home improvement project or two on the side! 

What does your involvement with Wings for Success look like?

I have been at Wings for 4 years and originally found out about the organization through a friend who had been working at Wings, but was leaving her position to return to school. At the time, I had been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years but was starting to think about returning to the workforce as my kids were getting older. I loved Wings' mission of helping women so was eager to learn more about the organization! Initially, I helped Wings with administrative tasks and maintaining their client database and statistics, but my role soon expanded when a volunteer stepped down from her role managing their donor database and website so I took on those tasks as well. My role has grown over these past 4 years to include working with our staff and committees to execute special fundraising events, donor communications, measuring and evaluating our online & print communications, and managing a revamp of our website platform. We are continuing to look at new ways we can use technology to improve our services and processes so I have been challenged to learn new platforms that will help us achieve these improvements!

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

My older sister is a big inspiration to me. She is a single mom who works hard to make a great life for herself and her daughter. She's encountered a number of challenges over the years, but instead of feeling defeated, she forges ahead and is a strong person. She's always looked out for me and even though we live far apart, we are very close and I can't imagine my life without her.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, personally or professionally? How have you overcome it?

Moving to the United States was a major challenge in my life as at the time, I was leaving behind my good friends and family and stepping out of my comfort zone. While I was initially resistant to this change, it ended up being a great opportunity to meet new people and have new experiences that I wouldn't have otherwise had! I've learned over the years that while change can be hard, it often results in great things and keeps you on your toes. Being able to adapt to changes in your environment and being open to trying new experiences and challenges is a wonderful life lesson!

If you could talk to yourself 5 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?  

Earlier this year, I read a great quote, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good!" This really resonates with me as my whole life, I have been a perfectionist, but at times, this can be a detriment to success and cause a lot of stress. Learning to let go and not stress over the details that aren't imperative to the outcome is something I'm trying to incorporate into all aspects of my life. As I get older, I have also learned that it is so important to take good care of yourself, both mentally and physically, and to surround yourself with good people who look out for you and you enjoy spending time with. 

What are some key books/learning experiences that helped shape you/your business?  

Having kids has taught me a lot about finding joy in the little things and patience (not always easy!) I've also tried to take away something from every job I've had and the people I've interacted with in all of the different aspects of my life. Listening to others is also an important skill and while I love to talk, I try to remember to be a good listener as well. I've also learned that when things feel overwhelming, take a deep breath, break it down into small steps, and getting a good night's sleep always gives you a fresh perspective.

What are your favorite bloom products, and why?

I love the bloom daily planner - as a busy working mom, I manage all of our family's events so being organized is a must! I capture all of our events on the calendar and also like to add important work events, deadlines, and my weekly to-do list. This helps me view my week at a glance and prioritize each day's activities. The Daily Planner also has some great templates to help you outline your personal and professional goals, growth and tracking charts.

Wings for Success Info:

Email: info@wingsforsuccess.org 

WebsiteFacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and YouTube

 
Thrill of Thrifting Info:

Email: thethrillofthrift@gmail.com

WebsiteFacebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Poshmark 

Do you know someone doing something amazing in your community? Nominate them to be a featured #bloomgirl by emailing us at bloom@bloomplanners.com
xoxo,
the bloom team

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