Twelve-hour days, pulling all-nighters, working weekends … this beautifully describes the life of a business owner.
The Kane County area is bursting with small businesses and – with it – the leadership of some amazing women.
There are two in particular who embody a tenacious entrepreneurial spirit, a kind heart and a savvy business sense that does not come naturally to most people.
Shannon Holst, director of A Step Above Dance Academy in Batavia, and Katie Kritzberg, co-owner and pastry chef at Two Wild Seeds Baking Company in St. Charles, immediately came to mind while brainstorming powerhouse female business owners to feature on “The Modern Domestic Woman.”
Being that May is the month of “mothers,” it was only natural that I ask them about the influence their own moms played in becoming business owners.
From a young age, both matriarchs of the family were an integral role in preparing these women not only for life, but entrepreneurship. Shannon’s mom, Kathi, started her business when Shannon was an infant. Both she and her sister grew up in mom’s office, making a fast-paced, ever-changing day a customary way of living.
While owning a business can easily pour into one’s personal life, Shannon’s mom had a very healthy approach to teaching her daughters about managing life.
“She taught us that you have to work long hours to achieve your goals, and you inevitably will get frustrated and excited,” Shannon explained. “She had a knack for taking the bad times and not making them a big deal, but she always made sure to celebrate the good times.
Almost parallel to Shannon, Katie’s mother, Susan, instilled in her children a similar mindset: “If you have a goal, you need to work hard to get it. It’s not just going to fall in your lap.”
Susan owned an art gallery when Katie was growing up, and the Kritzbergs come from a long line of entrepreneurs. While her mother created and worked in the gallery, she made sure Katie had plenty of art supplies, books and food.
“She’s selfless,” explained Katie. “She has always been willing to put her family first and is completely dedicated to the things she cares about and I loved the time I spent with her in the gallery.”
Katie and her mother are co-owners of Two Wild Seeds, the brick and mortar bakery in St. Charles, creating fresh, gluten-free treats that have taken the western suburbs of Chicago by storm. An idea stemming from the Kritzberg’s love of home, Two Wild Seeds recipes are inspired by Midwest roots, the family’s favorite desserts and Susan’s impressive garden.
Yet the joy and stress of managing a successful business require perseverance and a desire to never settle on complacency; in fact, both women’s character was built upon the eagerness to go the extra mile.
“She never let us take short cuts,” recalled Shannon. “All the way back to first-grade math, my mom never did my work for me; she did it with me and talked me through it.”
Fostering in her a willing spirit to hurdle obstacles instead of run from them, Shannon sees now as an adult how her mother’s willingness to walk through the frustration of a problem has equipped her with an arsenal of tools to prosper as a small business owner.
The parallel of their lives as female business owners may not be the same in genre, but the constant challenge of managing a company and putting their best foot/pastry forward, is. As the director of a dance studio and pastry chef of a bakery, at the core of their character is the daily reminder of what their mothers instilled in them.
“I tell my students – you have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes you have a terrible rehearsal and you perform fantastic, or vise versa,” said Shannon. “And if you’re not scared of the next goal, it’s not big enough.”
Across town in neighboring St. Charles, Katie is physically making edibles that personify the motto of her childhood: encouraging others to live a self-sustaining life and connecting spirits via delightful (and locally-made) food.
“I get my work ethic from her,” said Katie. “She never complained, always wanted to produce the best she could for us.”
But how do these women manage it all? As modern domestic woman, both Shannon and Katie know when to “turn it off” and garner support.
Each turn to the comfort of home and the people in their lives that keep them going. Shannon speaks fondly of her fiancé, Adrian Clayborn, as the most disciplined person she knows. He keeps her on her toes when it comes to life and business.
“He’s a naturally motivated and disciplined person in his own career,” said Shannon of her love, who is a defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons. “He holds me accountable, reminds me not to hit snooze on my alarm … even when I was searching for a new building, scared to death of this leap, he was there with daily encouragement saying, “You’ll be fine.”
Suffice to say these modern woman do not have a “normal” schedule working 9 to 5, especially when it comes to running a business, and Katie is a testament to “unique” working hours.
“I’m in the bakery a lot, sometimes almost 24 hours a day,” she said, “so I really try to preserve the time I spend at home for relaxing, reading and not thinking about work.”
Both women are fortunate to have partners in their lives who support their unpredictable schedules.
“Neither of our schedules are normal,” Shannon laughed, “but we both respect the fact that we love what we do and always come together at the end of the day.”
Kaite’s partner-in-crime, Randy Ruggieri, plays a huge role in terms of support and grounding her when days get stressful.
“Randy is a jack-of-all trades,” she said, “I would never be able focus on baking if he wasn’t here.”
The Two Wild Seeds bakery manager since its opening, Randy also teaches rock climbing in Glendale Heights to pursue his love of the outdoor sport. A California native, his easy-going personality is what brings sanity to their relationship amid the chaos of running a business.
“We really take advantage of the time we have together, because it’s so limited,” explained Katie. “It takes a certain kind of person to be supportive of the intensity a small business can bring, and Randy has always encompassed an enduring nature of calmness.”
Two women in completely different professions, both blessed with strong and savvy mothers who set the groundwork for their lives. This strength was based on how their mothers made them feel in their own skin. Empowered, valuable, and most of all – loved.
This article was originally published on May 4, 2017, in the Kane County Chronicle.