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Leveraging My Past, To Move Our Company Forward. Meet Ilene (35/53.2)

"Tin, and Lead. Sn, Pb. Six years ago, I knew nothing of these elements. Now, they are my bread and butter.

In the summer of 2014, my father - my rock - passed away. After three weeks on life support following a fall, we held his hand and said goodbye. After the funeral, my brother, Steve, asked me to help him run the family business, Mayer Alloys Corporation. Mayer Alloys is a distributor, specializing in tin and lead alloys, as well as a recycler of nonferrous metal and electronic waste.

Doing so would not be an easy task. Mayer Alloys is based in the Detroit suburbs, 300 miles from my Chicago home. Moreover, Steve had worked with my dad for over 20 years, whereas I knew nothing about the business. However, with the support of my husband and son, I accepted the challenge.

Thus, the question was raised: how do you run a business you know nothing about? The answer: you learn.

For the first couple years, I watched, listened, and learned from those with more experience than me. I believe you can’t change what you don’t know, so I studied the periodic table, researched the various alloys, and asked a lot of questions. I learned something new every day, while also leveraging my past, to improve our company’s future.

I graduated from the University of Michigan, Dearborn in 1985 and began my 30+-year career in marketing and advertising. I worked on accounts for some of the largest companies in America, like Microsoft, USPS, Chrysler, and, Chevrolet, which offered me the memorable experience of touring with the Beach Boys at the height of their “Kokomo” resurgence. I loved building brands, and helping my clients grow their business. I liked what I did and was good at my job. However, despite decades of late nights and weekly business trips, I was never able to break the glass ceiling. I watched as men doing less work, with equal or less success, got promoted, because, as I was told, they had families to support.

Though I had little experience in metals, my marketing expertise is what gave me the ammunition to help move the company forward.

With Steve running the day-to-day operations from Detroit, I sought new ways to grow the business. Together, we acquired our own warehouse, emphasized government contracting, and expanded into military packaging and warehouse distribution. These decisions were often met with skepticism. I was changing things and I had to work hard to earn the respect of our staff.

Today, Steve and I to continue to expand upon my father’s legacy, abiding by the values he taught us as children - putting honesty, fairness, and responsibility at the company’s core, and focusing on what matters most, the people in our company and our customers.

I cannot say that these last six years have been easy. I had to learn how to run a small business from scratch, and made many mistakes along the way. I work a lot and spend roughly a quarter of the year away from home. But now, I work on my terms. I never broke the glass ceiling, but now, I’m standing on top of it."

*** Please follow along on instagram as well and learn more about Ilene. 52 Phenomenal Women is now in its second year! This is week 35 of 52.

Participants in this project will be supporting the efforts of Dress for Success Worldwide – Central. We are all stronger together and it is my sincere hope that we will be inspired by each other’s stories. Now is the time to celebrate as well as encourage one another. Tell your story!

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