Category Archives: profile

Profile: The Family Thread

Every February, Diane Lemonides works a service project she created called “Warming Hearts.” With the help of her local Rotary Club and her son’s hockey team, each week she brings a cooler to gather gallons of soups from eager participants. Then delivers them to Safe Harbor, a homeless shelter near where she lives in West Chester, PA. The following week, she returns empty containers to be filled up again. Her program grows each year. When asked where the idea came from she said, “In my family we always made soup. I love making it and knowing I’m doing something for others.” It’s like that for her: giving is just another thread in her busy day.

Diane is a self-proclaimed “Big-Time Environmentalist.” She supports all kinds of environmental causes, including The Natural Lands Trust, Appalachian Mountain Club and The National Parks program. She has been composting and working an organic garden for years. Since she was a little girl, she’s had an affinity for nature. She recalls as a teen, telling her parents she was going to clean up the town creek. Off she went with a rake, shovel and bag, clearing away all the trash. These days Diane’s often seen participating in her township’s neighborhood clean-up program.

She grew up in a family business. From those strong roots she gained a set of values that carries over into her own business. Values, rooted in an appreciation of the environment, spring forth in her giving nature. She was taught that caring for the land and for others can be blended into everything she does. Family is, for her, “The thread that ties it all together.”

When she isn’t cleaning up parks, she runs Verve Marketing and Design. A marketing company that supports hard-working and caring companies that have unique products and services to offer. Diane and her company provide strategic planning, along with graphics and content. Many of her clients create bespoke items. “I love when people are producing things that are just exceptional that they put their heart and soul into!”

Each year, she and members of her Verve family, as well as other family members and friends, cycle in The Multiple Sclerosis 150 City to Shore ride. The course is a 150-mile ride over two days from the city to the shore line. In the past her company has raised over $7,000 for the local chapter.

In lieu of gifts to her clients, Verve sponsored three children through Children International. This program allowed her to extend family even further. It began when the children were just two years of age and continued until they came of age.

The values she learned growing up thread through Verve Marketing and Design. For Heifer International, Verve handled the entire book packaging for a project called “Dreaming Cows.” It was a series of illustrated books, used as educational tools for children, filling them with an environmental and global perspective. “That was a really meaningful project. I was so glad to be able to do it,” Diane said.

Everyone who works for Diane is part of the family. She actually pays interns and has hosted many of them over the years. “I love to watch them graduate and see where the world takes them,” she said, with pride. One of her past interns, Guy, called one day, unexpectedly. He was on the train back from New York City where he had interviewed for and been offered a great job. If it wasn’t for her, he told her, he wouldn’t have the experience he needed to land that position. “It feels really good to be giving kids a break,” Diane echoed.

Diane likes to work with clients who share her family-based principles. 60% of her business is with Amish craftsmen. Diane understands the challenges they face in balancing family and work, and the need to preserve the business for future generations. Like Diane, her clients have the thread of family through their work.

With a background in arts, working as a designer and art director for many publishing houses across the planet, Diane brings a sharp eye to her work. Not only does that influence her ability to envision and evaluate the visuals to market her clients, it also fuels her appreciation of the bespoke items they create. Her appreciation of art and nature work hand-in-hand in her business.

The thread of family continues throughout her whole life. It keeps her giving wherever it’s needed. Deep-rooted values make her a beneficial member of her community as well as a successful business owner.

To contact Diane, click here.

For more information on the Dreaming Cows series, click here.


Profile: The Blessing of Faith

Ahmed Irfan Khan runs Barkaat Foods, a food company in the Chicago area. Barkaat means blessing and they are surely a blessing to their customers and their Islamic community. At the core of Barkaat Foods is the principle that Doing What’s Right is Good Business. They harvest livestock adhering to the highest Zabiha Halal hand slaughtered standards. Ahmed knows about business. He is not just a faithful man, he also holds an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. It was there he was urged to find a niche. He did so by following his heart and his faith.

As well as preparing meat in the prescribed Halal fashion, they also offer delivery. Their company,, does a bustling trade. Taaza means fresh. They deliver fresh, custom cuts of meat and ready- to-cook products like marinated meats, patties, and various delicacies. In this way Barkaat handles the entire supply chain assuring that the meat is authentic Zabiha Halal from “farm to fork.”

Ahmed and his family believe in giving exceptional service. Ahmed says that it’s not the mistake that matters, but what is done after to make it right. Taaza2u has a call center that reaches out after each delivery to be sure the customer is happy. Ahmed agrees that it takes extra resources of time and money, but it has been well worth the investment. The business is on a growth spurt thanks to word-of-mouth alone. Factor in the savings in marketing, brand awareness and promotion from this kind gesture to their customers and it’s easy to see it’s paying off. Everyone’s talking about their service. Naazish Yarkhan, a local writer, had this to say about Taaza2u, “Their customer service goes above and beyond and patrons can even visit the pastures where the animals graze, for a company sponsored BBQ, at least once a year. Their delivery trucks are as commonly spotted in this area as are FedEx or UPS deliveries and that’s not an exaggeration.”

Ahmed believes that “You see the benefits one way or another when you do the right thing.” He does the right thing by his faith, too. At the heart of their work is Purpose: to make sure Muslims get Zabiha Halal quality meat. It’s not easy to find. This has to do with how the livestock is handled throughout the process: that the animals are killed humanely, with respect, and in the proper Islamic way. Their meats are all natural and hormone-free. This Blessing supports every Muslim in the community.

Ahmed and his team work their beliefs as well by offering a place where the faithful can participate in the rituals of the festival of Eid al‑Adha. “It’s right for people to see and connect with the sacrifice of the animal,” Ahmed said. Barkaat provides a gathering where everyone can come and participate.

The Qur’an states, “We made you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind.” Barkaat supports their community by giving time and the blessing of fresh food where they can. Feeding school children, assisting college-bound students, advancing American Muslim integration, helping schools to provide higher quality education, including advocating for leadership training and youth programs are just some of the causes they champion. Guided by a strong set of principles, their magnanimous gestures extend to international charity, as well as participation in societies that embrace the Islamic faith.

Ahmed and his team are living their faith through a successful business that allows them to give back to their community and beyond. “Giving in large doses can bring large rewards,” he said. Below is a list of some of the organizations they support through their bounty:

You can contact Barkaat Foods at:

Barkaat Foods

Barkaat Holdings


Profile: Recycling Beauty

Blank Verse Jewelry can be seen worn by stars. It’s shown up on runways, been featured in major magazines, and photographed in all the right places.  You can find Blank Verse Jewelry from New York to San Francisco.

This small, eco-friendly jewelry line is lovingly created by Laamsha Young.  One has to call her successful.  She does work she loves, paying attention to the environment, as she expresses her creativity through transforming old items into modern pieces of wearable art. She is making the world a more beautiful place. And at the same time helping to support and nurture her growing family.

Her work entails taking found objects and infusing them with the inspiration she receives from the Santa Cruz Mountains where she lives, from music and from poetry.  Blank Verse is a poetry term meaning no rhyme, but rhythm.  Laamie starts with a blank canvas and adds her own rhythm to build unique pieces.  She was born a painter and now scours flea markets and thrift shops for materials that tantalize her eye and stir her soul. “I find vintage clothes smell like old perfume.  They remind me of my grandmother’s jewelry box, full of treasures,” she said.

Laamie chooses from among the previously-loved bounty of beads and gems, material and metal. In her studio she works her alchemy recycling old items into glamorous and one-of-a-kind wearables. From otherwise cast-off items, the designer restores beauty with a fresh take. Lauren Phillips, Assistant Wardrobe Stylist from the Pretty Little Liars television show said, “Blank Verse’s unique, hand-crafted jewelry became such an asset for us in this photo shoot. The attention to detail is so obvious it shows through the camera lens. With a piece of Blank Verse an outfit becomes that much more chic, funky or even flirty. It works with any occasion. We were lucky to have Blank Verse Jewelry with us for this shoot!”

What brings Laamie the most joy is making jewelry for special people. She made a gift of a piece to Kathryn Budig, a yoga teacher in Los Angeles. It so moved Kathryn that she shared her find with some of the stars who now wear and adore Blank Verse Jewelry. All from a simple and joy-filled gift given to another soul.

Ms. Young follows her muse and passion every day, filling everything she does with art. For her local elementary school’s annual fundraiser, a $100 a plate affair, Laamie handled everything from volunteer coordination to service to clean up. She’s always on hand to add her art for decorations at school concerts and events. Recently, she took on a stint as an assistant in the school’s art program. She also enjoys giving talks to high school children. “I love seeing the amazing potential and creativity in young kids. It is a special treat for me to be a part of something that nurtures the creative spirit.”

She wishes other mothers of young children to know that they can have creative expression and work, as well as a family.  She does it with the help of her husband, Matt and her two children, Bryn, 10 and Henry, 7.  Finding a studio outside her home gave her space for quiet time, when needed. She credits a sense of discipline that keeps her at the work table. Mostly it’s been the support of her family and friends.  And her deeply-felt gratitude for the life she has and the ways in which she can give back.

Some places where you can find Blank Verse Jewelry:

Blank Verse Jewelry

Etsy Shop

Synergy Organic Clothing

The Penny Rose Blog


Changing the World One Business at a Time

I have a Vision of a world where we are aware that we are all made of the same elements and live in a state of gratitude to be on this unlikely beauty of a planet. Where everyone understands that what we give to another, we give to ourselves. Whatever we can do to make things better for someone else, the more our own lives prosper.

There is a Universal Law of Cause and Effect.  All who have tried it have seen that when you give, you get back a whole lot more. As creatures of energy, in an energetic world, we can have impact in a positive or a negative way.

I believe there are many businesses out there who are doing the best they can to work from a set of values, that speak to a concern for others and a respect for the Earth on which we stand. They have a sense of Service, Meaning and Purpose which overlays their ongoing commercial endeavors.

When small business combines resources with community, there’s not much that can’t be done. I envision a movement, spreading from business to business, person to person, community by community.  If we could all work from a spirit of cooperation, I believe, we could solve our global issues of Environment, Energy and Economics easily and move on from there.

My Mission in this cause is to shine a light on the good work small business owners are doing. To acknowledge all acts of charity, even those which can fade into the background behind a readiness to step in and help. I will be posting a series of profiles on these businesses.  Showing, I hope, how commerce rooted in service to others, can build a stronger, more loving society. And ultimately a better world for all of us.

There seem to be a lot of businesses ready to step forward and claim a Positive Slant on Business. So stay tuned! The first post will be on Laamsha Young, owner of Blank Verse Jewelry, designer to the stars. As the mother of two school-aged children, she is living her art and her service in one smooth motion.  Radiating her passion for things previously-owned and expressing that inspiration in one-of-a-kind, made-beautiful-again pieces of jewelry.  Catch Recycling Beauty later this week.