NOTE: This post is not necessarily related to business or bankruptcy. But, on second thought, maybe it is. Just short of its 100th birthday, Weirton Steel Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Northern District of West Virginia (Wheeling) on May 19, 2003. Here is the NY Times article published the day after the filing. As detailed in the Weirton Steel wikipedia entry, by bankruptcy court order, the assets were auctioned with most being acquired by ISG. ISG then formed a new division called ISG Weirton Steel. On April 5, 2005, ISG completed a merger with Mittal Steel. Then again in 2006, Mittal Steel completed a merger with Arcelor thus resulting in a new company known as Arcelor Mittal. While I was practicing bankruptcy in Philadelphia at the time of the initial bankruptcy filing, I relocated to Pittsburgh in 2004 and work for a boutique commercial bankruptcy firm who served as counsel to the creditors’ committee in the Weirton Steel Ch. 11 case.
So I attended the Weirton Festival of Nations this past Saturday. I had to man the Rotary booth. I brought along my children.
I had the privilege of sitting next to E.T. Weir’s lovely wife Gretchen at the Festival. Her late husband was the grandson of E.T. Weir, who founded the Weirton Steel Corporation. He is the man after whom our town and high school were named. Gretchen Weir traveled here with her dynamic daughter from New York City to donate memorabilia to the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center and to address the audience as a part of the opening ceremony for the Festival. She and I talked about many things. I told her what it was like growing up in Weirton and what it is like now. I have reflected much about my upbringing in Weirton and my continued close bonds with my childhood friends.Gretchen asked me to what extent the mill was still operating and I said I wasn’t exactly sure but, to my relief, I see smoke sputtering out of a few remaining stacks. I told her my mom and I drove down Main Street just on Friday and shuttered when we noticed another part of the mill had been demolished.I explained Weirton was, at one time (and probably still is), one of the most ethnically diverse towns in the state of West Virginia. There were numerous ethnic enclaves- Italian, Greeks, Polish, Serbs, etc. The Festival this weekend was a celebration of this diversity. Performances, foods, booths, etc. My children and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I was a kid we used to have the “International Food Festival” each July. It was a 3-4 day event. I used to LOVE it. I still have my “half-Italian” red, green and white pin. I told Gretchen that Weirton was so unique because there were not significant economic disparities (i.e, the haves and have nots). Most all of our pops, of course, worked in the mill; our moms had to quit working once they got married (!!! ). Most families were in the middle class and experiencing a similar way of life. Weirton native Anna Egan Smucker wrote a lovely children’s book titled NO STAR NIGHTS about growing in Weirton, this way of life. I happened to borrow it from the local Mary H. Weir Library (originally built as a result of a $450,000 donation from E.T. Weir) and have been reading it to my children for the past few weeks.
Gretchen and her daughter were kind and interested and enthusiastic about urban renewal and where Weirton can go from here. Gretchen even let me take a photo with her to post to Facebook!!
Although I typically write about business trends and success stories, this is a turnaround story about urban renewal and the evolution of a small steel mill town. TO BE CONTINUED …
Written By: Katie Imler, Legal Clerk at MazurKraemer
On March 19th, the Cake&Whiskey Pittsburgh Ladies held the first Gathering of 2013 at the Wigle Whiskey Distillery. Wigle Whiskey is one of six organic distilleries in the United States and one of two Rye Whiskey Distilleries. The evening kicked off with a tour of the distillery, in which we quickly learned the history of Whiskey. Did you know that Allegheny County used to produce 1/2 a barrel of whiskey for every man, woman, and child in the US in the 1800s? And, until Ben Franklin offered land in Kentucky (and other states) to get people to move there and produce whiskey (actually bourbon because it’s made with corn), most whiskey was made in Pennsylvania? Fun Facts.
Over 40 women attended the event throughout the evening. Many of the woman learned of the event through friends of friends and word of mouth. They were curious as to what Cake&Whiskey is about. And boy did they found out! The overall group was fabulous. All ages, all industries. We had women from the food, restaurants, and bar industries, teachers, lawyers, real estate developers, direct mail firms, Veterans Marketing firms, bed and breakfast owners, photographers, non-profits, and many start ups to name a few. The conversations were amazing and genuine.
After some mingling time, the women got to know each other through an icebreaker. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, the women shared three types of pictures with three new women: a picture most recently taken, a funny one, and the most meaningful picture. This got everyone talking, laughing, and sharing their photos. Afterwards, two free subscriptions to the magazine were given to the woman whose business was most recently in the news and whose birthday was closest. We then toasted to “The Sweet & Spirited World of Business” and ate lots of food! The food was delicious – steakhouse bruschetta, bourbon meatballs, meat, cheese, and olives. Plus, one of the top Pittsburgh Bakeries donated cupcakes and my mom made an incredible Chocolate Bourbon Poke Cake – many women, including myself, had 2 pieces it was so delicious!
Half way through the evening, everyone gathered around for the Hot Topic Discussion. In groups of 5-6, we discussed questions based on the Articles in the Spring Issue of in the magazine. After a couple questions, everyone switched groups and did the next set of questions with a new group. The women truly got to mix and mingle. Questions included:
- “What is behind every good man?” Of course at once everyone shouted, “A good woman!” However, the discussion was directed towards how to interact and influence men in the workplace or home environment.
- Share a time when you had to Rewrite the Rulebooks to achieve success.
- Everyone knows that hindsight is 20/20. What would you write to your third grade self?
- We all want to have our cake (and whiskey) and eat it too. What does “Having it All” mean to you?
- Every woman in this room is a mover and shaker in her own right. What is your Next Advancement? How do you chart that course to get you there?
The conversations that were flowing were incredible. It was such a blessing to hear women connecting on such a deep, real, and personal level. Breaking the groups up from their discussions was a challenge!
The next Cake&Whiskey Pittsburgh Gathering will be in June so mark your calendars! It will most likely be at Cure (one of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh, and highly rated nationwide). We’ll be doing something extra special to celebrate the summer. Marie Petriello, from Stir Society, is going to teach us on how to make the perfect cocktails! Marie’s lessons on mixology are something you won’t want to miss!
Keep up to date with what entrepreneurs and business women are doing all over the country on the Cake&Whiskey Facebook Page.
Thank you to J.Elizabeth Photography for the amazing photographs!
Last night my mom and I attended the Entrepreneur’s Pitch Contest in Downtown Wheeling, West Virginia. It was an event sponsored by the Gary E. West College of Business and the Center for Entrepreneurship at West Liberty University (I am an advisory board member for the Center). It was held at the Capitol Music Hall (yes historic concert venue where Johnny Cash and June Carter played-we named our son, Jackson, in part after this Johnny Cash tune).
Basically, it was similar to the SHARK TANK tv show, although we did not have investors sitting on a panel; the whole audience could ask follow-up questions! Local entrepreneurs and small business owners were given 5 minutes to pitch their business to the audience. The audience was given an opportunity to ask questions about the business and then the audience voted for the best concept. The entrepreneur with the most votes was awarded a $2,500 cash award from sponsors. At the end of the event, attendees could also contribute to any entrepreneur if they so wished.
There was a cocktail hour with hors d’oevres and then a keynote speaker Eric Carl, founder and president of http://www.fundable.com talking about crowd funding . Here is his powerpoint presentation that he kindly shared with me.
The pitches started at 7 p.m. I wanted to share thoughtful questions audience members (a/k/a/ SHARKS) had so that if you are an entrepreneur you could better understand what to expect at an event like this (there will be more in the future) and ask yourself some hard questions about your business concept:
- How will you actually make money with this business?
- What are your expenses? Will you need employees? Office or warehouse space? What will be your profit margin? For each product or service, how much will you have to spend or incur in order to make how much?
- Who is your customer base? Men? Women? What do they do? How do they spend their time?
- Is there enough traffic in the targeted area to draw the customer base?
- Did you research patents?
- Are there pending government regulations or laws that may negatively impact your business?
- Are there cultural or technological trends that may make your product or service obsolete?
- How does your product or service actually work? Explain to us better how it functions.
- How are you different from your competitors? Why would I use you rather than your competitor?
- What is the price point for your product or service? Is that reasonable?
- How do you plan to use the proceeds from tonight? Where will you invest your money? What do you need next to take your business to the next level?
- Do you have an advisory board put together?
- How did you come up with this idea?
- Could there be security issues with your product?
- Have you sold any of these products yet? Have you tested this service yet? What was the response?
If you were a shark in the audience, what would be some of your questions? Come to our next Pitch event!
I love to travel. Last week, I was in Disney World with my family. I had been to the theme parks twice before- once in 2003 with friends and then for the first time in 1986, when I was 12 years old on a 2-week family vacation to Florida.
The trip in 1986 inspired me. I felt at that time that I could do anything, be anything. I remember walking through Epcot, reading the quotes of Walt Disney that are posted all over the place, the peppy music, the fireworks.
So this time around, I wanted my small children to experience this same sense of wonder, empowerment. Although they seemed laser focused on buying toys and candy and riding buzz light year rides, I do hope that some of the wonder of the place rubbed off on them.
Since I pal around with so many entrepreneurs and out of the box thinkers, I wanted to share this quote to which I can relate; I read it on a wall in Magic Kingdom.
“I can never stand still. I must explore and experiment. I am never satisfied with my work. I resent the limitations of my own imagination.” —Walt Disney
Has a vacation or trip ever profoundly change you as a person, a parent, a business owner, a student?