2012 Woman Business Owners of the Year
Lori Hilson Cioromski
TH Hilson Company
TH Hilson Company is a preferred distributor of specialty chemical raw materials to leaders in the Coatings, Adhesives, Personal Care, MWF/Lubricant, and Plastics markets, providing quality service and innovative solutions since 1973. The company is a privately-held, 59% women owned business, operating in 17 states in the Midwest, with 23 employees in sales, marketing and support staff, demonstrating consistent sales growth over the past 3 years.
Lori has successfully overcome a number of obstacles, including an ever-changing marketplace plus the recent economic downturn, since taking the helm as President in 2001. Under her leadership, the company has expanded its territory, developed new markets and formed a strong management team focused on the company’s commitment to service and growth.
In 2007, Lori put together a strong executive management team that was instrumental in repositioning the company to meet new marketplace challenges. Nevertheless, by 2009, the economic downturn was hitting her company hard – the chemical industry as a whole was down 40% – and Lori was looking for ways to cut expenses while keeping her key employees. To keep employee cuts to a minimum, she asked all employees, including herself, to take a pay cut. At the same time, she took a hard look at the strengths of her employees, developed those strengths, and implemented a number of other creative initiatives in order to help promote sales.
Due to the way the company had re-invented itself during the downturn, Lori and her team were able to stay ahead of the industry’s average and sales started to improve. Late that year, Lori committed to reinstating half of the pay cut, and in early 2010, she restored employee salaries to their original levels. A few months later she repaid what the employees sacrificed during the tough times in 2009.
Lori received NAWBO Chicago’s 2011 Member of the Year Award, and the Emergency Fund’s 2011 Heart of the Community Award. In addition, she was named among the Enterprising Women of the Year in 2010, and received The Business Ledger’s Entrepreneur Excellence Growth Award in 2008. Under her leadership, TH Hilson Company was the 2010 & 2008 recipient of the EPS/CCA’s Distributor of the Year Award.
Lori is passionate about attracting young people to the chemical industry, as her work with NAWBO’s Next Generation Committee attests. She is also committed to helping local low-income families avoid homelessness, chiefly through her involvement in the Emergency Fund – where she serves on the board of directors, on the marketing committee, and as Chair of its “Symbol of Hope” campaign. She also serves on the NAWBO Chicago board, as Director of Charitable and Community Outreach.
Victoria E. Rock
Victoria Court Reporting Service, Inc.
After a financially challenged childhood with a hardworking single mother, and an early career as a legal secretary, Vickie discovered court reporting and heard the call to entrepreneurship. In 1981, Victoria Court Reporting Service, Inc. opened for business. At that time, court reporting was little more than an archaic record-keeping industry. But the advent of the personal computer was revolutionizing business.
Victoria Court Reporting Service, Inc., headquartered in Chicago, partners the latest communications technology with exceptional customer service to give clients the competitive edge. VCRS provides traditional court reporting services as well as interactive and Internet realtime, videoconferencing, videography, and data archiving. Despite the success of VCRS, Vickie continued to look toward the future monitoring business trends in the court reporting industry and in the world at large.
In 1999, Vickie combined her expertise in reporting technology with new advancements in Internet voice file sharing and created Victoria’s Transcription Services, Inc. (VTS). VTS is an Internet-based transcription company offering clients 24-hour dictation and transcription service from anywhere in the world. VTS will continue to evolve from a transcription service provider to a global technology company providing online report, voice and document repository in multiple languages.
In 2010, Vickie established VTS Consulting Services, which provides administrative assistance to women and minorities seeking to obtain business from large corporations and government sectors through socio-economic designations such as WBE, WOSB, SDBA and 8(a) certifications.
Adjusting to economic shifts, industry evolution, and rapidly changing technology has been a hallmark of Vickie’s years as a business owner. At the outset, she faced the challenges of the substantial time and dollar costs of installing equipment and proprietary software, training court reporter staff on shifting their mindset and practice to the new high-tech paradigm, and educating clients on how to take maximum advantage of VCRS’s services. Later, when software programs became PC-based and gave rise to the court reporter as home-based independent contractors, Vickie faced competition from the very court reporters who had once been in-house subcontractors.
The economic downturn of 2008 had a profoundly negative impact on the court reporting industry. She was in a downward spiral, facing an immediate need to reinvent her business from the ground up. The luxury of a prestigious office and lavish quarters had to be sacrificed in the name of economy and efficiency. A comprehensive campaign of downsizing in all aspects was undertaken. After three years of grappling with these challenges, Vickie achieved success: by 2011, overhead was reduced by nearly two-thirds, margins were up, and business was restored to profitability.
Vickie’s success as a business owner is largely due to her intense drive and persistence, her continuing quest for self-improvement, and an openness to change and grow – not to mention the innovation that is most popular with client: freshly baked cookies delivered to each and every client deposition site.