To celebrate March as Women’s History Month and March 8 as International Women’s Day, we asked 28 Central Ohio women: “What are two passions that feed your soul?“ Here is what they had to say!
“Being a survivor of the Rwandan genocide that killed almost 1 million people in 3 months and being a refugee has allowed me time to look at what’s really important in life. I consider myself a very fortunate person to have survived and one of my passions is to intentionally add value in people’s lives daily. I strongly believe that I survived because I have a purpose in this world and making an impact, big or small everyday feeds my soul.
Dance and music also feed my soul. Many professional speakers such as myself have unique ways of entertaining and engaging audiences. I usually find myself dancing on stage whenever appropriate to lighten up the mood. Most times, the audience joins me and we are off to a great start no matter how deep the topic at hand is. It’s a beautiful life!”
– Clementine Bihiga, President & Founder of Global Impact Academy and Clarette Refugee Fund
“Breakfast with my girlfriends feeds my soul and fosters the best support system I could imagine. A small group of us tries to meet once a month before work. We’ve been through weddings, break-ups, job changes, and babies. Whatever life serves up we get to hash out over coffee and it is the best therapy!
I’m also passionate up reading books. I love losing myself in a good story. Historical fictions are my favorite because I enjoy learning about the many interesting characters and events that have left their mark on our world.”
– Kristin Boggs, State Representative, Assistant Minority Leader at Ohio House of Representatives
“‘We rise by lifting others’ is a how I strive to live my life, and it sets my soul on fire! We can easily become frustrated by the injustices of society and the world, and the problems seem so big. We think, ‘I’m just one person, what can I do?’ I learned when you reach outside of yourself and help someone else – whether it’s letting someone in a rush go before you in a crowded line or advocating for another person to receive recognition or a promotion – and see the difference that it makes for them, the fulfillment is so much more powerful than when you simply serve yourself. It’s a wonderfully rewarding and humbling experience that fills me with gratitude.
I love connecting people to help them advance their goals, whether personal or professional. Because my career pursuits have been in cross-functional fields – mixed-use real estate, nonprofit, and consulting – I’ve had the benefit of working with beautifully diverse people from all walks of life and in all types of positions, from prison guards to fashion brand CEOs. When someone expresses a passion to me and they’re unsure who to connect with to advance the idea, I love connecting friends and colleagues who otherwise wouldn’t have crossed paths. And then seeing what they create and accomplish together truly feeds my soul!”
– Vicki Bowen Hewes, Founder & Chief Empowerment Officer at Life Leadership Legacy / Founder Emeritus at Dress for Success Columbus
“As a working parent of three littles, my time is not always my own to feed my passions. But the two things that feed my soul are laughing with the people I love and time spent with children. (Wine is a close third).”
– Kate Brunner Quinn, Regional Director of Development for Central Ohio at Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana
“I’m going to go ahead and admit that my passions are pretty extensive, and that I add to my passion batch often. Right now, I’m becoming more and more focused on the environment. I think it’s important for us to reconnect with our planet as a society, and I’m crazy excited about the creativity that lies in finding new ways to change the way we exist and interact on this rock in space.
I’m also very passionate about the connectedness we all share with one another. I recently watched Black Panther and I’ve been sitting with the line, ‘We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us.’ We are all share in our humanity, and I am so passionate about exploring that and celebrating that in watching one another do what we love, in engaging in important conversation, in being open. What’s life without a little bit of passion?”
– Hilary Buchanan, Creative Director at Creative Babes / Art Director at Pixel Park
“Family and Community — these are my passions. My husband Bob and I have five children, four grandchildren, and a granddaughter on the way. Our marriage, children, and grandchildren bring me joy. I’m committed to creating a world where our kids and grandkids can thrive. That is why community is so important. We own a home and business in Worthington, and are thrilled to be involved in this thriving small community and the larger Columbus community. It is our honor to support Worthington Schools and nonprofit organizations including Worthington A.M. Rotary, McConnell Arts Center, GetDot Networking, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Kinder Key, Heinzerling Foundation, Mount Carmel Foundation, Cancer Support Community Central Ohio, a Christmas to Cure Cancer and many others. Thanks, Columbus, for supporting our family-owned jewelry store and enabling us to give back!”
– Theresa Capace, Co-Owner of Worthington Jewelers
“Two things that fuel my soul are my spiritual practice and my support network. My personal support network is composed of close friends and family members who believe in me as much as I believe in them. The symbiosis of those relationships give me strength, courage, and wisdom to pursue my loftiest goals and make a positive impact in the world. My spiritual practice consists of reading sacred writings, meditation, and a keen curiosity about world religions. My connection to that which is greater than myself empowers me to live up to the greatest in myself. These fuel my soul and underscore my work.”
– AJ Casey, Executive Director at Stonewall Columbus
“My first passion is the empowerment of women. We need to seize the moment that was paved by past trailblazers. These strong women have set the stage and given us many opportunities. We need to continue to empower the next generation of women and guide them on their journey.
My second passion is advising small businesses within my community. I provide them with strategies to take advantage of opportunities and position themselves for the future. These businesses become profitable and, in return, make our communities stronger.”
– Betty Collins, Director at Brady Ware & Company
“Sharing inspiring stories of my personal conversations with ‘hidden figures,’ especially women of diverse color, cultures, faiths or orientation, immigrant entrepreneurs, and men who are allies. Everyone should be able to see ‘someone who looks like them’ in both my personal and business life.
Putting a smile on people’s faces with sincere comments of gratitude when they help others or myself. Gratitude is something that makes people feel seen and heard. Every night almost without fail I write down three things for which I am grateful.”
– René Delane, CEO/Founder of Women Who Dare
“Facilitating interactions that connect people/businesses to others sparked a passion within me early in my career. It began with networking events and coffee chats but grew into my mission that has guided me throughout my career. My success professionally has been rooted in helping others make these connections. The connections can from sometimes simple tasks like sending introduction emails to two people or something as large as creative events and promotions that connect guests to retailers.
Sometimes I’ve made these connections through professional meeting but most have come from my second passion, volunteering. I think being able to be passionate about helping others is at the core of who we are as people. When a person can successfully connect with others through personal stories and shared experiences, a bond is created that fosters trust and confidence. It builds a sense of loyalty to your own brand.”
– Mary Dimitrijeska, Marketing Director at Polaris Fashion Place
“The arts & culture feed my soul. I’ve spent the majority of my career as a professional arts administrator and consultant to arts organizations. While I enjoy all disciplines, music is my first love as a performer and listener. A second soul feeding passion for me is travel. I love exploring new destinations, learning about the local history, supporting the local arts scene, and sampling local cuisine.”
– Christy Farnbauch, Executive Director at National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Columbus
“The care and rescue of Siberian Huskies is probably my deepest passion. They are one of the most surrendered breeds because, when purchased or adopted, people believe they are bringing home a fluffy bundle of joy. They can be – if you take the time with them to train and exercise as needed so they don’t eat your couch. We have rescued 3 and they bring so much joy, light, and love into our lives. We could not be more blessed.
My other passion is movement, of all types. From yoga to dance to quick exercise breaks between meetings, getting up to move can change the entire mood of a room, especially if you can add music!”
– Gina M. Ginn, PhD., Chief Executive Officer at Columbus Early Learning Centers
“Encouraging other women and kayaking. One involves a lot of electric conversations and brainstorming to make Central Ohio an amazing place. The other involves total peace and quiet in nature!”
– Mikaela Hunt, President & Chief Storyteller at Mikaela Media
“People are my passion. Interacting with people feeds my soul. I love helping others find their career path and grow professionally, specifically with the young professionals involved in HRACO (Human Resources Association of Central Ohio). I am also passionate about travelling the world, which allows me to experience other cultures, people and traditions.”
– Brittany Marcellino, HR Manager at AXIA Consulting
“I feel really passionate about helping freelancers and small business owners gain more confidence in themselves so they can, in turn, better serve others. When you’re newer to starting and growing a business there are so many challenges you may face: lack of support from friends and family, funding concerns, learning how to actually take a hobby and turn it into something that generates revenue, and I really want new business owners – especially women to understand that they can actually have what they want and they can really love using their unique talents and gift to serve their clients. I’m always excited to witness that light bulb of confidence that starts to shine brighter and brighter as my clients grow in their purpose.
Another passion that really feeds my soul is being able to be a connector. I love joining professionals together who can help each other. We’re all in this together so it’s nice to build positive networks.”
– Havilland Maxwell, Owner of Havilland Creative Group
“Making volunteering as easy as getting an Uber; Opportunity for women, especially in Egypt, to get a quality education; AND reducing waste in our lives and communities. (I’m that girl who carries around my own silverware. Less plastic, who’s with me?!).”
– Madison Mikhail Bush, Founder and CEO of POINT
“I have always said that with hard work and passion anything can be accomplished. Two passions that feed my soul include doing great creative work which I get the opportunity to do everyday at KnockOut Branding and being able to connect with successful, happy, and supportive people. These two passions motivate me daily which leads to a very fulfilled life.”
– Kelly O’Brien, Owner of KnockOut Branding
“When I think of what my passions are, I remember staying up endless nights working on my business plan a few years ago. I had a Word document with a separate tab open for each business category – budget, market research, client demographics – all of the things I sat there and Googled. My business plan was awfully written, and I had no idea what I was doing. What I did know, were my intentions. I knew that I intended on showing people that creative practices are not reserved for only those who already consider themselves ‘creatives,’ and I knew that I was out to prove the healing capabilities and mental nourishment of creative practices. I’d say that these intentions go hand-in-hand with passion because even though I was taking control of my life, in a way, I was out of control because my passion just took the steering wheel and wouldn’t let me sleep at night until this business happened. So I’d say that those intentions I had for the business originally are what continually feed my soul now as I see everything first hand here with my team of artists who give these wonderful experiences to the people who walk through our doors.”
– Meg Pando, Founder of Studio 614
“My drive to help society. Whether they are the customers/users of a product I design as a UX (User Experience) practitioner or the surrounding community in need, it gives me a great sense of joy and accomplishment to give back and know that I have made a positive impact on people’s lives.
Traveling around the world has played a huge role in my personal and professional growth. It has taught me to empathize and understand how people’s stories and journey can vary based on their culture, food, and livelihood. Traveling has also kept me inspired and motivated by challenging me with different perspectives and providing new ways to approach a problem. One tip: Traveling doesn’t have to be extravagant. If you have a problem you can’t solve at your desk or cubicle, walk over to your colleague’s desk, go for a hike, attend a Meetup, and travel.”
– Zoey Ryu, Human-Centered Design Researcher at Lextant
“The most gratifying moments of my life are moments that I have been able to witness the transformation of how a girl or women views themselves. Watching them start in a phase of uncertainty, doubt, fear – almost like a caterpillar. Then watching them transform into this beautiful butterfly who knows her worth, knows her voice matters, and knows her purpose. Nothing feeds my soul more!”
– Maylin Sambois-Sanchez, Co-Founder & Director of Development at Femergy
“Reading books and Hip Hop fitness. Specifically Prologue Books, The Columbus Metropolitan Library, and M. Nicholson’s Hip Hop Fitness make this city an amazing place to live.”
– Elissa Schneider, Executive Director at The Matriots PAC
“Teaching, and engaging in work that helps us move our communities toward equity and inclusion are two of my passions. I love teaching the Women’s Leadership course for first year students at Otterbein, because it brings these two passions together in meaningful ways. Students who learn to examine questions and topics from different perspectives, to connect what they are learning to the world around them, and to confront difficult issues of power and privilege are well positioned to make positive and lasting contributions to their professions and to their communities. My students, especially those who are new to grappling with these questions, inspire me. It takes courage to interrogate our assumptions about one another, especially when our assumptions are as ‘invisible’ as those about gender tend to be.”
– Wendy Sherman Heckler, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Otterbein University
“I love striking up conversation with strangers. While this embarrasses my teenager if she happens to be with me, I truly enjoy making small talk and have found that this small joy is part of what makes the personalization of my company so special.
Professionally speaking (and relevant to matchmaking), a huge passion of mine is helping single men/women. Whether it’s making a formal introduction like setting people up on dates, being a resource, or providing hope – I enjoy the process of discovering how each person’s journey is unique and how I can help them along the way.”
– Nicci Sprouse-Grosso, President at A-List Introductions
“Books: I have always been a bibliophile – from the moment my mother held my hand and walked me through the most beautiful treasure chest I could ever have imagined – my hometown library was filled from floor to ceiling with books! Such riches! My heart would begin to beat faster on the ride home as I would mentally organize which selection from the wobbly pile on my lap I would dive into first. I learned that stories (fiction and nonfiction) are the architects of empathy – the essential human element for healthy, human connections and friendships. When I am reading, I am totally engrossed and in the moment. The moment I am supposed to be in. Present in my life.
Humor: I have been reminded on many occasions by friends and acquaintances that my laugh is distinctive and does signify to others in restaurants or other locations that I may be present in that establishment. They usually comment upon their departure that they knew I was there as they hear me laughing. This also happens at the office, if I am on the phone laughing with a friend and my spontaneous joy may cause some to have to close their office doors so they can concentrate! At first I was embarrassed by that, until I realized that I am proud to be identified with joy and laughter.
And – if I get one more passion that feeds my soul – may I please add dogs? My life with my dogs has given me the most precious, cherished and ‘in the moment’ opportunities to feel nothing but gratitude and wonder at being loved for simply showing up. For me, dogs are the ultimate role model teaching us to be in the moment and squeeze every bit of joy out of life – simple and pure unconditional love.”
– Laurie Stein Marsh, Executive Director at Leadership Columbus
“I believe that we were placed on Earth to serve. My prayer life reaffirms my relationship with God. My faith reminds me that my family, work, health, and the challenges that we face as a part of our everyday lives will work out okay. Everything works out for good and we were put here to make a difference!
My soul is fed by prayer, faith, and the work that I do for the residents of Columbus and Central Ohio. It’s a commitment to making sure that the work that I do remains focused on improving the quality of life for the residents of this community.”
– Priscilla R. Tyson, Council Member at Columbus City Council
“Nothing fuels me more than developing programs and experiences that will positively impact a generation of girls and women. Hearing their needs, learning their journeys, understanding their economic concerns feeds my soul in ways that I can’t quite define. Every encounter I walk away empowered and inspired to do and create more. As a wife and mother of three, on days when things get hard and I begin to question my journey, they are the light that refuels my why and gives me the push I need to keep on creating!”
– Christina Vera-Reid, Co-Founder & Director of Operations at Femergy
“Continual learning in order to broaden my knowledge base, which allows to step out of my comfort zone and soar to new heights.
Providing opportunities for women and girls to build confidence and overcome their fears.”
– Tammy H. Wharton, Chief Executive Officer at Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland
“Building brands within by cultivating an intimate, motivating and highly productive culture. Secondly, being a connector.”
– Alexia Winfield, HR Project Manager at JP Morgan Chase / Founder and Creative Director of the Columbus Book Project / Co-founder and Brand Design at Humans of Columbus
Photo credit: Headshot photos were submitted to us by each interviewee. Additional photo credit goes to Stef Streb Photography (for Hilary Buchanan) and LaJuana Taylor (for Elissa Schneider).