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Women of Westport

Article by Anna Barnes and Robin Chung

Photography by Mindy Briar and Provided

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

Jen Tooker

Second Selectwoman, Town of Westport

"I'm proud to say Westport has a long history of electing women to all positions in local government. 

"My background lends itself to championing economic vitality initiatives, so I've been able to devote time and energy to getting to know our local business community and better understand their needs. I am determined to create an environment where our town government is a true partner in supporting local businesses’ success and job creation, making Westport a great place to both live and work.        

"I see public service as an excellent vehicle to … improve people's lives, from investing in the education of our next generation to providing excellent and accessible amenities and services to all residents. I firmly believe that genuinely listening to, learning from and respecting people is at the core of making more good things happen in Westport, one decision at a time. Together."

Jamie Camche

Founder and CEO, JL Rocks

JL Rocks’ sparkly store is tucked into 292 Post Road E. Jamie’s colorful pieces are designed at a price point reasonable for self-indulgence.

“I worked as a garment agent in Hong Kong … overseeing quality control and manufacturing … I learned a great deal from living and working in Asia about discipline and attention to detail.

“I went to work for Wende Cohen as a sales associate when she opened Bungalow almost 20 years ago. It was Wende’s vision to carry a range of fine jewelry … Poof! I became DMM of fine jewelry design at Bungalow and incorporated my knowledge of private label and manufacturing to fine metals and stones.       

“My father and his wife, Irene, inspire me every day of my life. They are partners in business and in life.

“It is not a sprint, it’s definitely a marathon of phenomenal days and some not. I surround myself with a team that is kin to family, and we treat each other as such.”

Marysol Castro

First Female PA Announcer for the Mets

“I thought I wanted to go into politics, so I planned on going to law school. I ended up at journalism school instead. I love communicating, and I’m nosy. I was able to be the storyteller for some extraordinary times in our history, such as Hurricane Katrina and the election of Barack Obama. I began my career as a news anchor; I loved and still love broadcast news.

“I’m inspired by my contemporaries and predecessors who understand the struggle of being a woman, a woman of color, a member of an underrepresented group in my industry.  

“Throughout my career, I’ve learned you cannot fake it. You must face it till you make it, which is to say you must face what you can and cannot do and be OK with that.”

The Art Studio

Kat Evans, Lisa Parrelli Gray, Veronica Hofstetter, Trish Monahan, Kris Davenport Toohey, Helen Werngren, Cynthia Whalen, Jen Williams

An active workspace and artists’ collective in Westport, the Art Studio opens to the public once a year to showcase members’ eclectic mix of paintings, prints and mixed media.

“The beauty of being in a collaborative group like the Studio is that we inspire one another. We critique one another’s work, keep one another in the loop on art happenings, exhibit as a group, act as a sounding board for ideas, and give advice on how to navigate working in the art world.

“We celebrate one another’s successes, be it landing a private commission or being juried into a prestigious show, and rally one another when we hit roadblocks. It’s a gift to be part of a small group. Our studio is a rare find for a working artist.” TheArtStudioCT@gmail.com   

Colleen Wiedmann

Community and Communications Director, Westport Downtown Merchants Association

As the community and communications director, Colleen Wiedmann uses her expertise from her winding career path to bring her expertise to WDMA. From film to fashion, she’s now in charge of community relations and marketing to better our beautiful downtown. And she’s not done yet.

“I don't think I've reached the summit yet. That belief drives me forward, and I'm always excited to discover what's in store around the next corner.”

Colleen does it all. As we know, balancing a career and family is no small feat.

“Right now I'm inspired by anyone who can wake up and pack more than one lunch box a day.”

“My best advice to the people who feel they must handle everything, to the detriment of their sanity: If at first you don't succeed, try ... until you find someone who can do it for you.”

Andi Sklar

Philanthropic Fundraiser

After being a stay-at-home mom for many years, Andi Sklar became a bit bored once her kids stopped relying on her for everything. She decided to utilize her free time and volunteer to help local nonprofits raise funds and awareness.

“I helped with some local charity events and started working with a friend’s athleisure company, Bandier. We hosted several events at my home raising money for many organizations: Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Whip Pediatric Cancer and the Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation. In 2016, my step-father was diagnosed with lung cancer, so I became involved with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute as well. I also helped create a local event for Al Diguido’s Al’s Angels called Angel-ade. Every June, families and businesses all over Fairfield County host lemonade stands to raise money for Al’s Angels.”

As for her inspiration?

“The obvious answer is that my children inspire me, and then the less obvious answer is the one and only Tom Brady ... he is a reminder that our best years can still be ahead of us.”

For her words to live by: “People will never remember you for what you had, but they will always remember you for what you gave.” and “Your greatest contribution to the world may not be something you do but someone you raise!”

Rachel Golan

Restaurant Controller of The Whelk, Jesup Hall and Kawa Ni

After living abroad, Rachel Golan moved back to the United States when she was 21.

“When I moved back home, it took a few years to figure out what next. I eventually landed in the restaurant business. I was running the events department, hostessing and filling in as a bookkeeper.”

After some training from a top hospitality accounting firm, she never looked back.  

“The women in my life inspire me the most. I feel fortunate to have a wide circle of friends who are smart, creative, generous and talented. Many have started their own businesses and successfully balance work and family.”

“Owning restaurants is a very challenging business, and I’ve learned that you truly have to love it in order to be successful. We were early pioneers in the 'farm-to-table' movement and are avid supporters of the Westport Farmers Market and our local farms. Educating the community to eat local and support local business has always been important to me.” 

Dr. Tanya Futoryan

Board-Certified Dermatologist, Westport Dermatology & Laser Center

"I came to the United States from Odessa, Ukraine, at age 11. I didn’t speak any English and had to overcome a lot of obstacles. Initially, I studied piano at the Eastman School of Music and had a number of strong female mentors. These strong women guided me through the decision-making process as I became a dermatologist.

"I chose dermatology because it addresses patients of all ages and is an overall happy field that I find very fulfilling. As I started to experience aging first-hand, I developed an interest in cosmetic and laser dermatology, which became my passion.

"The most valuable lessons I have learned from—and with—my children starting as early as kindergarten. Honesty, kindness, respect and responsibility will take you a long way and are applicable inpatient care and managing employees."

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