Challenge Opportunity

Introducing the Great Lakes Bay Business Women Leaders Awards 2014 recipients

Successful are those who see challenge and opportunity as two sides of the same coin. Wherever one is found, there is the other.

The recipients of this year’s Great Lakes Bay Business Women Leaders Awards 2014 are notable examples. Blessed with the power of positive vision and creative problem solving, each woman tackles obstacles and challenges with dignity and determination. The results are powerful. Inspiring. Bold.

Beth Bryce, a self-described “hopeaholic,” helps women discover and grab hold of their career and life goals. Patti Bayne Tomczak is a passionate entrepreneur proudly pursuing her dreams. Nerdy and driven is how young, talented Cameron Learman describes herself and her desire to impact Alzheimer’s disease. Denise Beachy, a “challenger,” is a business executive who sees the big picture—not only as it is, but what it could be.

These women are leaders of change. Change that is strengthening companies, inspiring communities, and motivating others to new heights. These are their stories.

Denise Beachy
Denise Beachy

Driving Change

Denise Beachy knows a thing about change.

The Bay City resident is celebrating 25 years with Dow Corning Corporation, a career that began in quality assurance at the company’s medical products plant, included several years working directly with customers, and now finds her leading Hemlock Semiconductor Group (Hemlock Semiconductor).

“When you’re young, you think you know yourself. When I was young, I would have never thought I would be in a business executive role. I was a scientist. Not only a scientist, but a chemist. And not only a chemist, but a biochemist,” says Beachy.

Recently named president of Hemlock Semiconductor, she is responsible for driving new business and technology initiatives for one of the world’s premier providers of high-quality polycrystalline silicon used in the manufacture of semiconductors, computer chips, memory products, solar cells, and other technologies.

“As you evolve, you realize you have a whole series of talents and capabilities, and they come out at different points in your life—so keep your mind open,” she says. It’s one of the ideas she brings to the table as a leader of the Women’s Enriched Network, an affinity group at Dow Corning that helps to encourage women in leadership positions.

According to Beachy, the ability to affect change and understand what it takes to do so effectively are two of the most important attributes of a good leader. For her, these qualities developed with small technical changes early in her career, followed by incremental changes in middle management, and driving fundamental change at her current level.

Think beyond your next move. Think a couple ahead of that. As you mature in a career, you actually get to know yourself better.

~ Denise Beachy

Now, she’s leveraging this experience to advance the idea of inclusiveness in a male-dominated global industry. It involves tapping into diversity—of thought and of people—and listening. Lots of listening.

“[It’s] teaching people how to be inclusive, to listen to different opinions, and open their minds so you can make better decisions,” says Beachy. It’s a challenging change, but one she relishes.

“I like the big stuff,” Beachy says. “I see a big picture and I always see improvements that can be made. And then I’m a challenger as a result of that. All the way from the beginning, before I even knew it.”

Beth Bryce
Beth Bryce

Discovering you

“They say the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why. I enjoy helping others figure out their why,” says Beth Bryce, director of career services and an adjunct professor at Northwood University.

The Saginaw native is also founder of Girls 2 Women Coaching, a career coaching company helping women increase their confidence, achieve their career goals, and realize success.

“It is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done over my 20-plus year career,” says Bryce. “I’m honored and humbled to have people share their stories, frustrations, hopes, and dreams with me. I feel fortunate to have realized my personal calling and mission in life.”

Her realization came a few years ago when she participated in the Saginaw 1000 Leaders program. She’d experienced a successful and lucrative career in accounting management with Fortune 500 companies, but she still found herself unfulfilled and missing passion.

You get nowhere fast in your career without mentors and sponsors. It’s so important to build authentic relationships with people and then pay it forward for others.

~ Beth Bryce

At the end of the program, the facilitator asked her group what they were going to do to better the community and the world. “At that moment, I finally realized my life was no longer about ‘me.’ I needed to take my education, talents, and experiences and become a servant leader,” says Bryce.

“It just goes to show you that one moment in time with one decision has the power to change your life forever. You just have to decide,” she says.

Today, she is “absolutely on fire” about career coaching, teaching, and writing. Earlier this year she was featured as a co-author in the book, Women on Fire, in which she describes how she was able to get unstuck in her career. She’s also working on her own book, a companion guide that will include 12 strategies on boldly pursuing and living your dream career.

Bryce’s proudest moment has nothing to do with improving a bottom line but rather co-founding Girls on the Run of Saginaw and Bay County. The nonprofit is dedicated to helping young girls build their self-esteem through a transformational program focused on joy, health, and confidence while integrating running. What started in 2009 with five girls in one school is quickly approaching 400 girls in 16 locations.

Patti Bayne Tomczak
Patti Bayne Tomczak

Failure is Not an Option

A small metal weight sits atop the desk of Patti Bayne Tomczak. A gift from her mother, it’s engraved with an inscription that reads: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

For Tomczak, it’s more than a paperweight. It’s the foundation upon which she builds personal and professional success. “I never look at failure as an option; [instead] what am I going to do with this challenge?” she says.

Tomczak is CEO/president of Bayne’s Apple Valley Farm, Inc., the beautiful and bustling apple orchard, bakery, café, and gift shop located along Midland Road/M-47 in Freeland. She’s been at the helm for 29 years.

When Tomczak first took over the orchard from her parents, the business was simple. Apples, cider, and doughnuts. But her mom had a dream: a vision that included gourmet food, gifts, and even pumpkins in a corn crib. Tomczak set to out to turn her mom’s dream into reality.

“Remember who you are, remember what your goals are. Surround yourself with the best people that you would like to emulate. I call them my board of directors.”

~ Patti Bayne Tomczak

Along the way, the realities of running an apple orchard offered plenty of challenges, or, as Tomczak likes to say, opportunities. From the flood of ’86 and the drought that followed a few years later, to the recent unseasonably warm spring of 2012 that stole 90 percent of her apple crop, she’s weathered her share of setbacks with forward thinking.

With each challenge, Tomczak uses the opportunity to diversify her business. It’s how the café and bakery came about, as well as gourmet foods, gifts, jewelry, and now clothing.

“You always have to roll with what’s thrown at you and take any challenge and deal with it. That’s the biggest key of being an entrepreneur,” says Tomczak. “Any challenge at all—and you are thrown many, many, many,” she adds with a smile.

Her years of experience running a profitable, local business have made Tomczak a sought after motivational speaker in the region. She’s also turned her artistic eye to photography, selling her photographs at Bayne’s.

Bayne’s Apple Valley Farm is open August through early January, and is a favorite fall destination for families near and far. Tomczak is proud to be a part of her customers’ family traditions, to be a place where lifetime memories are made. 

“They think of us as part of their family. That makes me know I’m doing this for the right reasons,” she says. “It keeps me motivated.”

Cameron Learman
Cameron Learman

Tackling Alzheimer’s

During her childhood years growing up in Linwood, Cameron Learman accompanied her mother, a speech pathologist, to local nursing homes. There she would spend late afternoons creating crafts with the residents and visiting with them in their rooms.

As a result, she says with a quick, easy smile, “I have an ungodly love for the elderly.”

It’s a love that lies at the foundation of what is now becoming her life’s work: helping find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

The path is just beginning to take shape for the 24-year-old. While attending undergrad at Alma College, she received her Certified Nursing Assistant certification and worked with hospice. She entertained ideas of becoming a physician, a dentist, like her father, or owning her own nursing home.

“I think probably all young people struggle with that when they first start out. Finding something you really feel you could do the rest of your life,” says Learman. It wasn’t until she signed up for research experience with Field Neurosciences Institute (FNI) in Saginaw that she discovered unexpected passions: neuroscience and working in the lab, particularly research relating to Alzheimer’s disease.

With the encouragement of her FNI colleagues, Learman is now a master’s student in Central Michigan University’s neuroscience program, studying the relationship between diabetes, particularly Type II diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. She continues as a research assistant at FNI and plans to continue on to earn her PhD.

The young scholar is also passionate about volunteering, something she has plenty of opportunities to do as this year’s reigning Miss Bridge Fest. Learman’s pageant platform is Making Memories: Alzheimer’s Association and helps her raise awareness of the disease and its impact. She went on to compete in the Miss Michigan pageant this past June.

The amount of people that have helped me throughout my career and the knowledge that I’ve gained from them, I don’t think you could take that away. That’s a huge success for me.

~ Cameron Learman

“My advice is to take any opportunity that comes your way,” says Learman. “Because through the opportunities that I’ve had, I’ve learned things about myself—things I like about myself, things I don’t like about myself. Things I’m good at, things that I’m not good at. And what really, ultimately will help you succeed in life is just to take opportunities, learn from them, and apply them to what you love.”


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