Leadership Conference Inspires Atchison Youth

  • Tuesday, May 01, 2012

On April 30, three businesswomen who grew up in Atchison shared their wisdom with high school students at the Atchison Leadership Conference.  The event was held in O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium on the campus of Benedictine College and was co-hosted by the college and the Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce.  Each of the three women spoke briefly, sharing their thoughts on leadership and success in business to a crowd of nearly 150 students from Atchison High School, Atchison County Community High School and Maur Hill-Mount Academy. 

The three businesswomen were Mary Carol Garrity, founder of Nell Hill’s; Sandy (Cummings) Sampson, president and CEO of Hays Companies, Kansas City; and Karen Seaberg, local business owner, community volunteer and civic leader. The three addressed the high school students in order to encourage them toward personal and professional success.  Each woman shared information about her own background and imparted helpful advice.

“Sharpen your people skills,” said Garrity.  “You may not be smarter than everyone else, but if you have personality, that will get you through.  It will help you succeed.”

Garrity is best known for her successful home decorating stores, Nell Hill’s, located in Atchison and Kansas City.  Her entrepreneurial spirit and wonderful sense of style have made the retail store legendary in the home decorating world.  Success has brought her national attention from Forbes magazine, CBS’s The Early Show, NBC’s Today show, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Midwest Living, Country Living, Victoria, and many other media outlets.

“To lead you need to be passionate,” said Seaberg. “In order to excite other people about something, you need to be excited by it.  So, find out what excites you and do that.”

Seaberg’s professional business background includes over 20 years as board member of MGP, business owner and civic leader. Along with her husband, Ladd, she is also co-owner of the local Long John Silver's franchise. She is well-known for her involvement in civic activities and played a key role at the local, state and national levels in the development of the 2004 Lewis & Clark Bicentennial commemoration, including serving on the executive committee for "A Journey Fourth," one of 15 national Lewis & Clark Bicentennial signature events. She served as the Governor's Chair of the Kansas Lewis & Clark Bicentennial and was a member of the National Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation Board from 2003 to 2007, serving as president from 2007 to 2008.

“Never say, ‘that’s not my job.’ Make it your job,” added Sampson.  “Be a student of the business and company you serve and learn everything you can about it.  Take responsibility for everything.”

Sampson has been with Hays since 2001 and became the president and CEO in 2005. Hays Companies is a privately held insurance brokerage firm and is the 16th largest insurance broker in the United States.  Prior to joining Hays Companies, she was a Sr. Vice President with Aon Risk Services in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York.  She has been in the insurance industry since 1981.  Her family has resided in Atchison County for over 100 years.  She attended rural elementary in Atchison County and graduated from Atchison Catholic Elementary School.  She is a 1977 graduate of the Academy of Mount St. Scholastica, now Maur Hill-Mount Academy.  She graduated from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, with a degree in business.

All three businesswomen emphasized the importance of hard work, persistence, and valuing other people.