Through their generosity and commitment to our community, these five Show Spotlight Sponsors have made it possible for WAM to offer reduced price tickets to our partner organizations. We thank them for their support in ensuring all audiences, regardless of circumstance, have equal opportunity to engage with our work.
WAM Theatre: Tell us about your business: What inspired you to start it and what keeps you going?
Oskar Hallig (President of Only In My Dreams Events, LLC): I have worked for many years and sat on the boards of a variety of nonprofits. Then in 2014 two things happened: I was married at Colonial Theatre and my dad passed away the week before. It was a time of big changes. When I planned events for the nonprofits I was serving people would always ask me, “Why aren’t you doing this professionally?” And I thought, “You can make money doing this?” So I started the business. I have my Masters’ degree in Development and Nonprofit Management, so I come at my work from a different angle than just the logistics of planning a party. I have done events for nonprofits, weddings, memorials, birthdays, private events, holidays celebrations – the list goes on. I am based in South Egremont and about 90 percent of my work is local in the greater Berkshire region, but I am always trying to figure out the best ways to attract the Boston and NYC crowd.
Jennifer Browdy (Founding Festival Director for Berkshire Festival of Women Writers): As a women writer myself, I founded the BFWW because I was hungry for connection with other women who write. I am not interested in celebrity writers so much as in digging down into the excitement of the creative process with others who are also treading that always-uncertain, risky, incredibly stimulating path. There is nothing more inspiring to me than sitting in a circle of women, each of us writing about what matters most to us and taking the risk of sharing our innermost passions—and fears—with each other. By coming together like this we can strengthen each other for our work out in the world, and it is my belief that the strength and wisdom of women who are deeply connected to each other and to the creative energy of our planet is desperately needed right now. This feels like urgent, important work to be doing in these challenging times.
Jana Laiz (Award-winning Author, Co-Publisher of Green Fire Press): Green Fire Press is a curated press – meaning that we help authors go from start to finish with their projects. We want to help authors create beautiful books that will have wide distribution and readership. As the publishing world changes our goal is to form a community of writers and readers. Jennifer and I know how hard the publishing world can be, so we want to make it much more accessible for authors.
Claire Richards (CEO of Jameela Imports): In the spring of 2013 I went to Petra, in Jordan, with my brother. Our first morning there we were having breakfast, which included Artius Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and it was so good that we couldn’t get enough of it. Out of the blue my brother said, “You should import this.” That started me thinking and at the end of the year I returned to Jordan, visited a Bedouin camp, took cooking classes, toured an olive grove, and stayed with a family up north in Orjan, in the Ajloun area, near the old Roman city of Jerash. The Jordanians are wonderfully hospitable, but most of the men in the family I stayed with spoke only Arabic, but the wife knew some English and we started talking and my experience with her, that conversation, changed everything.
Jameela means beautiful, and my core mission is to bring the beauty, the taste, the smell, the touch, the experience of Jordan and Artius Extra Virgin Olive Oil here. The olives for Artius products are grown by a cooperative formed by nine farm families. Another family does the mills the olives to produce the oil,and they pay for coop to maintain their organic status.
Jane Apkin (Owner of Seniors Helping Seniors of Western Massachusetts): I had worked as a Medical Speech-Language Pathologist for over 25 years, both in the state of Florida and in northern Berkshire County at North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH). Seniors Helping Seniors is a national company with 250 franchises across the country, and I had seen them at work in homes in Florida and loved the peer-to-peer model. When NARH closed I saw the need right here, and after acquiring all the required insurances and licensure I opened in October of 2014. Since then business has been booming! We were a Finalist for Berkshire County Newcomer of the Year in 2015 and for the Better Business Bureau Workplace Excellence Award in 2016. I am so glad I recently hired new office staff because our workload has doubled in just the last few weeks.
I love the opportunity to enable healthy, active seniors to re-enter the workforce on a flexible, part-time basis to have a vocation and make some income. We work to match like-minded people so that the person receiving the help feels comfortable with the person coming into their home. We make every effort to keep the same helper or helpers on a given case to enable consistency, trust, and camaraderie.
Ben LaRoche (President, Technology Systems Design Engineer of Amenitek): I started Amenitek 10 years ago after a decade in the IT department at Williams, one of the “most wired” colleges in country at the time. The technology field was growing rapidly and people wanted to be able to use their computers, phones and tablets at home the way they could at work, but wireless technology wasn’t good enough yet. You literally needed to hardwire your connections. However, you needed to be a dealer to access quality product and know how to install it. There wasn’t anybody providing that service for homeowners locally, so I thought I had found my niche. What’s interesting is that, very quickly, more and more products started to become available at the consumer level. Pretty soon anyone could just walk into a big box store and pick up a tv, computer, smartphone, security camera, or just about anything automated. But getting all of these elements working together to achieve the ease and efficiency they are touted as providing – that still requires a broader understanding of technology. That’s when Jared came aboard and the company morphed into a one-stop shop that provides start-to-finish technology solutions for residential and commercial consumers. Our goal is to provide guidance on system design and product selection, professional installation and configuration, knowledgeable support, and responsive service. My passion is creating custom solutions for clients using the latest technology resources. I want to provide the best experience possible for our clients. We are constantly researching new products and how technology can be used to make life easier and more enjoyable. The fact that technology is such a rapidly changing field keeps me motivated to stay on top of my game.
Jared Martin (Vice President, Master Electrician & Estimator of Amenitek): I joined Amenitek as partner within its first two years and my experience with business and in the electrical contracting field allowed us to expand the company’s offerings. I’ve always enjoyed being able to develop new business opportunities, whether it be bidding & estimating projects at the construction level or through meeting directly with clients to assess their needs. It is gratifying to be able to take an idea and turn it into a designed plan, then from the wiring phase straight through to final programming of a system. Having a happy customer at the end is always the priority. The basic desire to provide clients with a higher level of diverse services, at a lower than expected cost, helped to inspire the growth of our business and allowed us to be confident in our potential to succeed. As technology changes so do the safety codes, licensing requirements and methods for installation. Having the right mix of technology-savvy engineers and licensed electricians allows us to provide a wide range of services to both commercial and residential markets. Our industry is constantly evolving and new technologies are emerging, so it’s always interesting and the learning never stops.
WAM Theatre: Why is WAM Theatre a good fit for you as a sponsor?
Oskar Hallig: I’ve always been very involved with the theatre. I love all the arts but my heart belongs to the theatre. I have been very connected with the Berkshire Theatre Group. I’ve sat on their board in the past and now I do their corporate development and fundraising I am always trying to get people to use the BTG facilities more for events, so I am thrilled to see this co-production with WAM. I am really impressed with what Kristen van Ginhoven has done using theatre as philanthropy. But then theatre is such a life changing personal experience for so many people, it seems only logical to use it as an agent of change in the wider world.
Jennifer Browdy: WAM Theatre and the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers were founded in the same year, out of a similar impulse to promote the creative voices of women writers—in WAM’s case, women playwrights. The BFWW was delighted to be a beneficiary, along with WAM, of the production of Motherhood Out Loud which WAM presented in 2014; we co-sponsored a workshop with playwright Winter Miller as well, and this year we’re delighted to be a Spotlight Sponsor of “The Bakelite Masterpiece.” Kristen’s vision of having the creative energy of her productions continue to ripple out by giving a portion of the proceeds to organizations benefiting women, is very much in alignment with the collaborative ethos of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers.
Jana Laiz: What keeps us going is being part of this creative community. We feel WAM Theater is a necessary part of that creative community and we are proud to be working with you.
Claire Richards: I think what WAM is doing is wonderful. I love Kristen van Ginhoven and I want to support her. I didn’t have much of a chance to explore my creative side before I moved to the Berkshires in 2008. Now most of my friends are artists and being involved with organizations like WAM helps me honor that side of myself.
And just as WAM works to help women and girls and tell their stories, I want to to do the same for the Jordanian women and tell their stories. Each time I returned I kept connecting with the women. Women do most of the olive harvesting because they have a more delicate hand which protects the trees for future harvest seasons. I spent a day with a group of five women harvesting olives and even though only one of them spoke any English we still managed to communicate and have fun. I need to return to Jordan to further my mission of telling the stories of these women, which I am hoping to do at end of October.
Jane Apkin: I got to know Kristen van Ginhoven through Berkshire Business and Professional Women and I just love her enthusiasm, and what she is doing with WAM. When she explained the Spotlight Sponsor program to me I immediately saw the opportunity to reach a completely different audience than I usually market too while helping my neighbors by subsidizing ticket prices for people who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend. WAM supporters are very community-minded and believe strongly in WAM’s mission to create change through education, awareness, and activism. Through WAM, people are making real personal sacrifices create change for women and girls.
It is important to recognize the value of women’s work. Seniors Helping Seniors was founded by a woman named Karen Yokum who worked with Mother Teresa in India, then returned to the states, became a cardiac surgeon, a wife, and a mother. My employees are about 30 percent male and 70 percent female, which is par for the course in care services. Seniors Helping Seniors is committed to giving our employees flexible schedules and opportunities for training and growth, which works well for many women who may be caregivers, who have been out of the workforce for a while, or who want or need to scale back their careers from fulltime to part-time.
Ben LaRoche: Both Jared and I are raising daughters so, for us, there’s a personal attraction to WAM’s mission. My daughters in particular enjoy performing, and I appreciate the collaborations you have developed locally that offer girls a chance to tell their stories, express themselves and gain confidence. From a business standpoint, the multiple ways that our sponsorship has an impact makes it a good investment. Through our sponsorship, WAM Theatre can produce a play in the community that creates employment and entertainment opportunities, engage patrons in philanthropy through their ticket purchases, and make donations to some amazing causes. Even if the promotion a sponsor is given fails to generate any further recognition for them, the sponsorship itself starts a chain reaction of benefits for the community.
Jared Martin: WAM Theatre is another small business, like us, trying to make a go of it here in the Berkshires. It’s true that entrepreneurs can be huge contributors to our economy, but only if their ideas are supported. New clients giving our team an opportunity to earn their business is what allowed our business to grow and succeed. This sponsorship gives us the chance to pay it forward.