Changing Course: Three women describe life-changing career choices

Life is full of choices. Each day we are faced with opportunities to choose that can forever change the course of our lives. The women within these pages made difficult choices. They sacrificed high-paying salaries, powerful careers, security, homes, familiar surroundings and life-as-they-knew-it in pursuit of a dream. It could have gone either way, but for these women, the options and the sacrifices were really no choice at all.

Paige Bosshardt

For Paige Bosshardt, taking a ride on the wild side is just part of everyday life. Paige and her husband, Fred, are proud owners of Caliente Harley-Davidson in San Antonio. Though Harley-Davidson has been a dream come true for the couple, Paige admits it wasn’t always on her radar. Born and raised in Kentucky, she once dreamed of being a news anchor for a major television network. Armed with a BA in marketing and a minor in public relations and radio-TV-film, Paige seemed destined to achieve her goals when she landed a job with KSAT-TV. “I was a writer for the assignment desk during the day of Bob Salter and Deborah Daniels,” she recalls. But life has a way of throwing curves on the highway of life, and after meeting and marrying Fred, Paige found herself in Houston and pursuing other interests. After a three-year stint with the Marriott Corporation, where she was a sales manager at the age of 25, she was recruited by an architectural firm, Vitetta Group, where she began to truly make a name for herself. “I was like a lobbyist for them,” she recalls. “I would meet with hospital executives or superintendents of schools and school boards and try to get them to hire our firm to build their new hospital or school. It was pure sales, and I loved it!”

For 11 years, Paige lived and breathed Vitetta. “I loved meeting people and traveling. I traveled every week. I met some really important people like Nelson Wolff and other city politicians. It was a ball! I gave it 150 percent. I considered my paycheck a gift,” she says. She worked her way up to senior associate and was on the verge of becoming a partner when the road of life threw another curve her way. A once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity for Fred would take them far from their life in Houston and Paige’s high-powered corporate job. “Fred was giving up everything to buy the Harley-Davidson dealership in Corpus Christi, and he wanted me to go with him. It was very, very hard for me,” she recalls. A move to Corpus would mean giving up the imminent partnership with Vitetta and all that she had worked so hard to achieve. Paige and Fred had one child at the time, and she had begun to see how difficult it would be to meet the demands of her current job while raising kids. “After little Fred came along, I could no longer live and breathe work. And Fred wanted me to be involved in the dealership and help out with marketing and events,” she says.

Though the decision wasn’t an easy one, eventually Paige agreed to the move and resigned her position at Vitetta Group. The Bosshardts packed up their belongings and little Fred and moved to Corpus Christi and into new lives as Harley-Davidson dealers. “Harley-Davidson is really its own world,” she says. “It’s a culture that people love, and it’s a great recreation. We offer rider’s education courses that I highly recommend for all riders.” Their first dealership, Harley-Davidson of Corpus Christi, proved to be a great success that led to their second purchase, Harley-Davidson of Laredo. Paige continued to be active in all marketing events, public relations and charity work for the dealerships as well as growing their family. The Bosshardts now have three children. In 2006, they took their equity out of the Corpus Christi and Laredo stores and bought Caliente Harley-Davidson in San Antonio. In December 2011, they purchased a second store, Down Home Harley-Davidson, in Burlington, N. C. Today, Paige recognizes the many positive outcomes that stemmed from the sacrifices she made giving up her career in Houston: “I enjoy having our own business. It’s double the work, but you have a lot of freedom, as well. We employ over 100 people, and I feel blessed to be able to give back to the community.” Though she now has a lot of in-house support, she remains active in all marketing events and charity work for the dealerships, but her primary focus is now their three children and the personal charity work in which she is involved.

Currently, Paige serves on the board of University Presbyterian Church’s Children’s Center, where she has served for four years. “It’s a great school, and they have helped me raise my children,” she comments. She is also co-chair for the Keystone School Capital Campaign, working to raise money for a new math and science building. “I love giving back to the community. Anyone who calls, I give!” she says. Blessings don’t come without sacrifice, and Paige is the first to admit that it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. “It’s not easy to work with your husband. I have an ego, and it’s hard when he corrects me,” she says. “Giving up that partnership that was coming and giving up my personal identity was very, very hard. But I love having my kids. I don’t know how people can do it all with kids. And I love having our own business.” With a recently renovated home in Monte Vista and a small Boerne ranch where they raise chickens, this Kentucky girl is truly a converted Texan. She explains, “Kentucky will always be dear to me, but this is home now. We’ve been here 21 years. I love San Antonio. I love the culture. And I love those chickens! I think I’m a country girl at heart.”

Her advice to others considering making that leap of faith: “Absolutely go for it. Know that there will be lots of ups and downs. Follow your dreams and know that it’s not going to be easy. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Keep following your dreams.”

Dona Liston

Dona Liston has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. At the age of 21, she opened her first business, Parties By Dona. “I was going through a divorce and needed extra income to make ends meet,” she recalls. “I had just had my daughter’s first birthday party, and it was such fun, I just kept doing it.” Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, Dona started Parties By Dona as a weekend job to supplement her income, and it grew into a full-time business. “I ended up opening a retail store that sold party favors, paper products and gift items for birthday parties. My store was next door to a bridal shop, and slowly, I started doing weddings, too,” she says. According to Dona, she is completely self-taught and has enhanced her knowledge by attending seminars and classes on wedding consulting and floral design, as well as by taking business courses. Parties By Dona turned out to be a springboard into her next business venture, Social Situations, a business dedicated strictly to brides and weddings. “I was already doing wedding consulting,” Dona recalls. “Social Situations was a retail store that offered wedding consulting and sold wedding invitations and favors. It was also an advertising venue for vendors such as photographers, caterers and linen companies. Basically, Social Situations was a one-stop shop for weddings. I would rent the vendors wall space, and when brides came in to talk to me about wedding consulting, they could see all of their options right there.”

As successful as her wedding consulting business was, Dona still wasn’t satisfied. “For 20 years I had been looking for a building to have weddings and parties in. It never came about,” she says. In 2008, while surfing the net in search of a hunting lease, her husband, Pat, came across the Terrell Castle Bed and Breakfast, a historic house in San Antonio that was for sale. “We both just fell in love with it,” she recalls. “It was exactly what I had been looking for all those years. My husband and I both love old homes. On vacation, we love to go look at old homes, cemeteries, things like that.” Within a week, the Listons were the proud new owners of the Terrell Castle Bed and Breakfast and preparing to start life anew in San Antonio. Lambermont, as it is known today, took three years to renovate with Dona at the helm. “I became a construction manager, interior decorator and project manager,” she laughs. For two years, she traveled between Harlingen and San Antonio, continuing with her wedding consulting in Harlingen, as well as overseeing Lambermont’s renovation before selling Social Situations in 2009 and moving to San Antonio full time. “It was hard leaving an established business,” she admits. “I was very well known down there. Now I am a little fish in a big pond. To start all over again was a little scary, but I jumped right in.”

No longer doing wedding consulting, Dona finds being a venue owner brings with it its own set of challenges. “I miss the creative aspect of wedding consulting the most,” she admits. “But you really can’t do both. I can’t oversee the cutting of the cake and unstop a toilet at the same time!” she laughs. Dona’s love of her new project is evident, as is her pride in Lambermont: “The idea of this historic home being restored back to the way it was in the 1800s is just incredible and very rewarding. People are amazed at what we have done. The architecture is just amazing.” To help grow her business and get her name out in the community, Dona joined many organizations, including the Women’s Club of San Antonio; the Fort Sam Houston Business Association, in which she is chairperson; the Neighborhood Association of Fort Sam Houston; and the National Association of Catering Executives. “I’ve always said, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s about being in the right place at the right time. So if you go everywhere and meet everyone, then those things are going to happen,” she explains.

Restored to the name given by its original owner, Edwin Holland Terrell, the United States ambassador to Belgium, Lambermont is now a popular wedding venue in San Antonio for local and destination weddings. Dona attributes much of her success to her husband and his support. “It really made good business sense for him to support me on something I have been wanting for a long time,” she says. She also gives credit to many of her so-called competitors in San Antonio: “There is plenty of business out there for all of us. We aren’t stepping on each other’s toes. We all help each other out and pass along business when we can. That’s the attitude you need to have to be successful in this business.”

Her advice to others: “Get involved in whatever you are interested in.”

Amy Doyle

Throughout the course of a rich and busy life, Amy Doyle has come full circle. Proud owners of one of the most successful and popular stores in San Antonio, Sunset Ridge Home and Hardware — a combination Ace Hardware and gift boutique located in the heart of Alamo Heights — Amy and her husband, David, gave up high-powered careers in the corporate world for a chance to live their American dream. A Texas girl at heart, Amy grew up in Alamo Heights and went on to earn degrees from both the University of Texas — in psychology, which she didn’t use — and the University of Houston — in accounting, which she did. Though the Doyles have now called San Antonio home for 17 years, a detour to Chicago took them well outside the city limits for over 20 years.

“I was living in Houston when I met my husband, David,” Amy recalls. “I was working for a commercial real estate developer, Gerald D. Hines, as a senior controller in charge of the Galleria Complex.” Soon after their marriage, David was transferred to Chicago. “Originally, we thought we would be in Chicago maybe a year or two,” she says. “We ended up staying for 10 years. We lived downtown in Lincoln Park, and I worked on Michigan Avenue. We loved Chicago. You can walk to so many places to shop. We loved the restaurants and the parks. We would take our kids sledding on the weekends.” Amy continued in the commercial real estate business, working her way up the corporate ladder to senior vice president for U.S. Equities, a commercial real estate firm, where she specialized in management and leasing of office buildings. David was a director of sales for a software research and development company. She explains, “They were very high-stress jobs. We had been in the corporate world for 20 years when we started to ask ourselves, ‘Are we going to do this for another 20 years?’” It turned out the answer was no.

At that time, the Doyles owned a house on Canyon Lake near San Antonio, where they spent a month or two every summer with their children. “One day, we had just gotten to the lake, and I got a call from my boss insisting I return to Chicago for a meeting,” Amy recalls. “I had to do it. That was really the straw that broke the camel’s back. I just didn’t want that life anymore.” For years, the Doyles had entertained the idea of leaving their corporate jobs behind and opening their own store. “One of our favorite stores in Chicago was called The Great Ace. It was like a combination Crate and Barrel and hardware store. We would go there every weekend. We just loved it!” recalls Amy. The idea of opening their own Ace store began to grow when one weekend, while visiting family in San Antonio, they stumbled across an available space in the Sunset Ridge shopping complex in Alamo Heights. “We thought it was a great location for a store. We had been playing the ‘what if’ game for years. This time, we just took it a step further,” she says.

They contacted Ace Hardware and got the information on becoming a dealer. Unlike many companies whose names are commonplace across the country, Ace is not a franchise, but a buying cooperative in which all the dealers have stock in the company. “It turned out, Ace had been wanting to put a store in that community,” Amy says. “We felt like the community needed us, and if we worked hard, we could make it work.” According to Amy, giving up their familiar lives as well as their corporate salaries was no simple decision: “It was a huge leap of faith.” With three children and an established life in Chicago, there was more to consider than simply putting the house on the market. “Life was just so hectic. We were looking for a place where the living was simpler, not so complicated. Chicago is great, but it’s not a place to grow old if you don’t have family there. The winters are just so harsh,” she recalls. “San Antonio was a good choice for us. It was a known entity instead of trying to forge out a whole new life. We loved Texas and wanted to come back. We thought it would be a good place for our children to be closer to family. And we knew Alamo Heights was a good school district, so we wouldn’t have to do the whole private school thing anymore.”

In the fall of 1994, Amy and David resigned from their high-powered positions, sold their home in Chicago, moved the family to San Antonio and opened up Sunset Ridge Home and Hardware. They have never looked back. “It was so much fun to make that transition,” she recalls. “It was very scary to give up things we had worked so hard for, things we were fortunate to have, but it was also really exciting.” But, she admits, it wasn’t always easy. “Our first year, we probably made as much as we used to pay in taxes,” she laughs. “Retail was something totally different from anything we had ever done. It was fun in our early 40s to start over, but it was lots of trial and error. Our vision of our store originally was completely different from what it is now.” The Doyles persevered and have enjoyed the last 17 years building a successful family business. Working side by side with her husband was a new experience Amy has come to truly appreciate. “It has worked out very well,” she says. “We even office together. I’m the bookkeeper. I do all the financial stuff. David does the marketing end. We’re lucky. We learned to keep our business separate from our personal life.”

Along with watching their business flourish, and her enjoyment at working with her spouse, Amy happily acknowledges the additional positive outcomes that have come with leaving the corporate world behind and owning their own business. “I don’t think you are ever too old to build your self-confidence and learn new things,” she says. “And we love our customers. It’s like having a little party at your house every day. Having a family business that our children have been involved in from time to time has been wonderful, too.” Her advice to others considering making a change in their lives: “It’s a lot of hard work. You are going to have to work much harder than you think you are. Consider an exit plan if it’s not working out. The concepts you have about your business when you go into it can change. Along the way, keep an open mind.”

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