- 1 of 1 Photos | View More Photos
Minerva business owner Vicki McGee has been named a finalist for the Athena Award in recognition of her professional accomplishments and service to her community.
The Athena Award is a national award that recognizes women who have excelled in their professional fields, have supported their communities, and have helped other women to achieve professional success.
McGee, along with 14 other finalists, will be honored at a May 18 ceremony sponsored by the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, which will name its 2017 award winner.
Youngstown-Warren's award program is one of the five largest in the U.S., according to Athena International, a non-profit organization that supports and honors women leaders.
The owner of Simply Scarves...and Such, located on Market Street, McGee was named for the award after a selection committee of business leaders and past award recipients reviewed nominations and evaluated nominees based on two rounds of essay-based interview questions and a third round of in-person interviews.
The Cleveland-area native began her professional career in retail with the F.W. Woolworth Company. McGee was transferred to Youngstown while working for the company and worked her way up the professional ladder to become a district manager.
Eventually she transitioned to a career in corporate human resources, which she worked in for 20 years.
After leaving the corporate world, McGee devoted time to crafting greeting cards and other gifts. Her handcrafted wares became so popular that she decided to set up her own retail business, a goal she said she had always wanted to achieve.
"Sometimes you get in a corporate mode, and I loved what I did, but I've always wanted to do something on my own," she explained.
McGee admitted that opening her own business was not a little daunting.
"To be honest, I was always a little bit afraid. There's that nervous about going off and doing something on your own," she commented.
But she kept on with her goal and, in November of 2014, opened her first Simply Scarves...and Such in Salem, where she has lived for 30 years.
The shop was a success with the Salem News voting it the area's "Best of Best in Women's Apparel" during its first two years in business.
Each yearMcGee opened a new location of Simply Scarves in the region. The Columbiana location opened in October of 2015, and an Austintown location opened in June the following year.
Minerva is host to McGee's fourth location, which opened earlier this month. She hopes to operate a total 10 stores within the next five years.
McGee said her shops are designed to help women get "really cute, affordable things and not break the bank. It started as scarves, then I had to tack on the 'dot, dot, dot' because I started offering other things. We offer fun, affordable fashion finds and gifts."
The shop offers accessories; clothing; sports memorabilia, including jewelry themed for the Carrollton Warriors, Malvern Hornets and Minerva Lions; home dcor, doll clothing and candles. McGee said she has begun adding her own line of home dcor to the shop's items.
In addition to opening her own retail operation, McGee has supported other business-oriented people, from kids to adults, in northeastern Ohio.
As the business advisor for Canfield High School, McGee teaches business classes to about 28 kids who range from freshmen to seniors. She said she teaches her students not only about business best practices but also about their own potential.
"I want to teach them that the sky's the limit. They can do whatever they want," she remarked.
She also speaks at women's groups, where she provides her insight about opening and owning a business.
McGee's mentoring has also extended to her Simply Scarves employees, most of whom had no background in the retail industry when she hired them.
Learning about her nomination for the Athena Award was a big surprise, said McGee.
"I am extremely grounded and humble, and I just do what I do to help others, especially women. For me, this is a very humbling experience," she commented.
"I'm really grateful that others see that I do try to make a difference. My passion is mentoring women and helping them to be successful. But at the end of the day, whether I win the award or not, I will continue to be a good role model to women in the communities I serve. I'm beyond grateful."