I thought a great way to end the holiday season was to celebrate the business heroes in our community that you might not know. So, for this month’s Challenge the Prof, I looked to track down Berks’ corporate heroes. And, I found some SUPER! The kind who succeeds, cares about making a difference and helps others be successful. And some readers have also shared their own heroes!
My three Berks Biz Heroes are: Brad Nofia Waples, Johanny Cepeda and Tony Moore. I asked each of them these questions:
What inspired you to start the business you currently operate?
What “gifts” (ie talents, skills, etc.) do you have that have been most helpful to your success so far?
Who is the person or people who have supported you the most in your professional life?
What would be the most important piece of advice you would give to young people in our community who might want to start their own businesses?
Brad Nofia Waples
Owner / Operator, CustomIt AFP (art, fashion, print)
Inspiration: my father. When I was little, my dad did a lot of different things, even though he had been an accountant by trade for 30 years. We ended up in Reading because he became the Executive Director of the Police Athletic League and through that I got to see him do a multitude of community development, amazing leadership development and really transform a community. I saw the impact this then had on many of my peers.
Gifts: My gift is actually that I don’t have any talent or skill that I can actually rely on; I always tell my dad he’s my superhero because when I was in elementary school he taught me to deconstruct things and put them back together; so I look at everything and try to break it down into its base root, then figure out how that base root works and how it interacts with other things, and then once that is done I can structure it to make it function.
Support: Tom McMahon (Former Mayor of Reading) has been a great help and a great influence for me. And, John P. Weidenhammer (President / Founder, Weidenhammer Systems Corp.) has been amazing over the years, including the first festival I did at 25. Bernie Gerber, who was one of the directors of the Berks Arts Council, and Johanny Cepeda, Mi Casa Su Casa, are other people who have been great. The person who has probably had the most impact on my professional life is Bonnie Versace.
Tip: The most important part of doing something is just doing it. It’s the first. And the second is not to give up because success is probably two steps away from quitting.
Owner, Mi Casa Su Casa; Councilor for District 6, City of Reading
Inspiration: So my inspirations are in my two children. After moving to Reading, I feel like Mi Casa Su Casa found me – it was at a time when my babies were very small, I was working in New York, I had two jobs. I would literally let my kids sleep to go to work in New York, commuters like an hour and a half, each way and. I would come home and find them sleeping, I only spent time with them on weekends, and it was starting to take its toll on me, so I prayed, asked, looked for change and looked for an opportunity that was right for me. would spend time with them and also have some income. And my cousins had this place they were selling and despite the butterflies in my stomach, I just took a leap of faith. And here I am, my God, over 14 years later.
Gifts: I feel like we have so many heroes in our community and I’m humbled that you consider me a hero, because I really do what I love and I think that’s my gift. I like people. I like to serve. I have a very big heart and one of the things that I was not yet with me when I was very young, especially from my father who told me to do whatever you do, to do it with love, or not to do it at all. And it’s kind of like my driving force, so kind of like always doing good and paying up front for whatever I get.
Support: So, I first want to say that I have a very supportive family and an extraordinary husband, who also supports me, who has been co-owner with me and co-managed in helping Mi Casa Su Casa to take it to a whole new level, so I also kind of want to pay homage to him: I don’t know where I would be without their love, their support, their motivation and kinda like rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty with me. Yes, it really is a family business.
Tip: My God, there is so much – one thing I can focus on is testing what they are trying to accomplish. What I mean by that is finding an internship, finding opportunities, where they can determine if this business is really something they want to pursue: and one of the things I find in the city of Reading , there are so many opportunities, resources and people were always ready to open their doors to give young people opportunities to learn and grow. You know I’m one of those, so if there’s a kid that’s interested in the restaurant business, come on, and you know I’ll give you a few chances, so you can see what it is and taste before diving in full.
CEO, Reading Film Studios
Inspiration: A good friend of mine came to me about four years ago and told me he wanted to continue the journey he started 20 years ago and build a film studio. He said he found the perfect location and it was in Reading and the demand for studio facilities is there. So we’ve come to fill that, especially for independent filmmakers, that’s the most important.
Gifts: Well, naturally when I was a kid in school I had a gift in the arts. I can see things, draw them and paint them. Then I got down to music. And growing up in New York, especially the neighborhood, you’ll learn to adapt to the things you want to be on the straight and narrow path, you don’t want to take the wrong road, so I thought music was a big deal. something else that I can gravitate to.
Support: My stepdad, that was the kind of guy he was, you know, the old fashioned way – he was a designer for a company that made baseball jackets and coats for kids, I think any the east coast at this time – a working man. But it was my mother who fed me this way. Then there was my tutor, she went to St. John’s University. Every year she would take me on my birthday and ask me what I wanted. The first year, it was an artistic setting; the second year it was a camera; and, third year. she bought me an audio recording device. The three things I do now – art, film and audio.
Tip: If you want to start your business, make sure you are passionate about it, so that it doesn’t look like it’s a job, it will feel natural. But one thing I would definitely say is don’t give up! Take one thing at a time. Do your research before you jump in and see if you really want to do something like this – if you have the natural ability to work with pressures and deadlines.
These are just excerpts from my interviews with these HEROES / HEROES. For the full interviews go to my YouTube channel: Marabella Enterprises and under The Practical Prof playlist click on Berks Biz Heroes!
Readers named two very special Berks Biz Heroes:
Owner of Sensory Concepts, Wyomissing
Sandy has given back to her community in a variety of ways, sponsoring health fairs at her location with other local vendors, running various campaigns for local nonprofits as well as hosting recycling events to keep the county of Berks green and clean. She is also very generous giving gift baskets to galas and non-profit fundraisers in the area.
Co-owner of ARCpoint Labs, Reading
I believe she is a Berks Biz Hero as she has been volunteering in Berks County from an early age, in grade school, and continues to this day. Annmarie always promotes local businesses and, through ARCpoint Labs, has organized volunteer and community events including items collected for Opportunity House, Safe Berks, local pantries; manages community blood drives; and coordinates bingo for residents of Berks Heim through St. Joseph’s Church.
Congratulations to these Berks Biz Heroes! Celebrate all the heroes in your life this holiday season! Happy Holidays!
Next month: 2022 Office hours themes
Dr Santo D. Marabella, The Practical Prof, is Professor of Management at Moravian College and hosts the podcast “Office Hours with The Practical Prof… and Friends”. Her latest book, “The Lessons of Caring” is written to inspire and support caregivers (available in paperback and eBook). Website: ThePracticalProf.com; Twitter: @PracticalProf; Facebook: ThePracticalProf.