"Our previous bank pushed us aside as an afterthought; PNC cares. I have a single point of contact for information and everyday needs, and an entire banking team when larger challenges or opportunities arise."
The Right Chemistry
When Ann Kastendieck became the controller for an industrial chemicals firm in the early '80s, she was sometimes asked to make coffee or work the switchboard. "Aside from the administrative assistants, I was the only woman on staff," she recalls of her entrée into the male-dominated chemicals industry. "I knew that if I was going to earn the respect of my colleagues, I needed to stand up for myself."
Ann not only stood up, she stood out. Gaining expertise and confidence with every passing day, she became an integral member of the leadership team. And when she saw an opportunity for her own advancement in 1991, she jumped on it.
"I hadn't really ever thought about becoming a business owner, but when I learned that V.L. Clark Chemical Company was for sale, I recognized it as a tremendous opportunity," Ann explains. "I was suited for the work and saw potential in the company, so I bought it."
Ann's vision paid off. Annual sales of V.L. Clark at the time of her purchase were $20,000. Today the importer and regional distributor of commodity and specialty chemicals is a $10 million enterprise - and one of the few woman-owned chemical distributors in the nation.
"It was scary at first, because I had put every penny of my savings into it," she shares. "But one pivotal move, developing a Web site, kicked off our momentum. The Internet was just becoming popular then, and I was as skeptical as anyone else about what it might deliver, but it put us in touch with customers worldwide and gave us a leg up."
Another pivotal move has played a role in V.L. Clark's growth: In response to market demand, Ann expanded her firm's focus to the food, pet food and agriculture markets in addition to the industrial chemicals market it had traditionally served. Today V.L. Clark serves some of the world's largest and most respected companies in these segments.
Resources to Grow
As Ann's company has grown, so have her banking needs. Ann relies on PNC for a broad range of business, personal and investment accounts; she encourages her staff to bank there as well.
"Our previous bank pushed us aside as an afterthought; PNC cares," says Ann. "I have a single point of contact for information and everyday needs, and an entire banking team when larger challenges or opportunities arise. Last fall, for example, when we won a substantial piece of new business, I knew we needed a larger line of credit. Our PNC team sat down with us, evaluated our needs and quickly delivered a package that enabled us to finance this additional business. PNC offers us resources and peace of mind."
Ann has also benefitted from PNC's support of ATHENAPowerLink®, a program that provides advisory boards for women business owners, and now she's serving on another woman's ATHENAPowerLink panel. "I benefited from the expertise of the Athena panelists assigned to my business last year," she says, "and I'm trying to keep the good work going. It's important for all of us who are fortunate enough to be succeeding in the business world to pay it forward. Together, we'll grow stronger as women and as business leaders."
ATHENAPowerLink® is a registered trademark and program of ATHENA International, an organization dedicated to creating leadership opportunities for women.