Entrepreneurs start companies when they see a need in the marketplace that they can fill, whether it is creating a new product or service or targeting an underserved segment of the market. Some may argue that women entrepreneurs are more adept than their male counterparts at seeing gaps in the market and seizing the opportunity. Women entrepreneurs are agile, innovative problem-solvers, meeting corporations’ needs quickly, adapting to marketplace changes and providing deep value.
Susan Katz-Aser is one of them, a Woman Entrepreneur. A native of Brighton, NY, where she was born; raised; finished high school; and, met her husband, who was her childhood friend. Her husband is now her best friend and life partner in every adventure that Susan has become involved. Together, they formed a beautiful family with two children and two and one-half pets. “Family is not a family, without pets,” Susan stated.
Since one is a stray that comes and goes as she pleases, Susan refers to her pets as two and one-half cats.
Even at an early age, Susan could see and identify business opportunities. Recognizing the need for cost-effective advertising for local stores through commercials, when she was only sixteen and experimenting with photography, she and her friend, Ardis, co-founded the Brighton Modeling Agency. For Susan, it was the perfect opportunity to incorporate business and social aspects by casting most of her friends in the commercials and finding sales representatives at the TV stations who would assist and/or contribute to making and/or creating the commercials.
Through the Brighton Modeling Agency, Susan was able to explore another of her interests – building houses, remodeling, and interior design. Since 1983, she has designed additions for clients’ homes. Although Susan went to college to become a veterinarian, her passion for interior design became her number one priority and led her to switch directions. Again, an opportunity presented itself, this time in Palm Beach, Florida, where she decorated and designed condos.
Back home in Rochester by the early 1990’s, Susan noticed a gap in the design and furniture business. She took a risk, followed her instincts, and opened a furniture store in the Village of Pittsford. Here, Susan could combine her interior design skills with selling custom furniture. Builders began asking Susan to decorate their model homes. Selecting the most essential details of every new home, she began staging homes with the exquisite taste and the attention to detail that make them prime for selling.
Success comes only if there is a reward in sight and a goal is in place. Working long hours, investing her energy into the furniture store, staging homes, and interior design led to a natural progression. Susan attained her real estate license and found that all of the aforementioned skills she had worked hard to perfect paid off. She was an almost immediate success in real estate. In 2005, while working in real estate, she also started a casting and location company. Then, a Hollywood opportunity appeared on the horizon.
Friends in Hollywood needed tastefully decorated homes in the Rochester area to serve as backdrops for their movies. Scenes included local restaurants, offices, schools, grocery stores, etc. Real estate clients lent their homes; rental agents made their properties available; and, business owners provided Susan access to their companies in exchange for the free promotion and publicity. Filmmakers hired her to be their Location and Scouting Manager. She was, and still is able, to sell homes to people in the movie industry by partnering with real estate agents in LA and Atlanta.
In addition, while working closely with filmmakers, Susan found herself under consideration for the lead female role in many projects and she was asked to bring friends onto the set as extras. Susan often says: “I am also an actress. In my acting roles I have been a doctor; upset cellular customer; waitress; a crazy wife, who kills my husband; a daughter; and, me. Currently, I am on TV advertising lawn tractors!”
Through years of hard work and dedication, and after setting simple, clearly defined goals, she started making moves. A small casting and location company became a larger business that grew into one that provides full casting, coaching, and location assistance in Hollywood.
Work-life balance is often an elusive concept for everyone these days. As Susan’s life was getting busier, both at home and at work, her vision of productivity and peace were often interrupted by the demands of her many roles. In spite of these challenges, Susan believes in taking a fun approach to business. Without any effort, she befriends her clients. Going the “extra mile” with her senior citizen clients, Susan meets all of their needs – from touring facilities, arranging for movers and cleaners, as well as assisting with out-of-town guests.
Woman entrepreneurs have a special perspective on work-life balance because they are often expected to fulfill a particularly demanding role at home and at work. Women are expected to provide support in their relationships and in their families, yet still have the energy and excitement to pursue their business and career goals. For Susan, her work-life balance was achieved by incorporating her children in her many business endeavors. It wasn’t a big surprise for Susan to see that her daughter, who accompanied her on the sets, developed an interest in acting and became part of many projects.
Susan’s daughter started working with an acting and voice coach and one thing led to another. She landed the lead roles in many movies shot in Rochester and the NYC area. During her daughter’s acting lessons, Susan grew close to her acting coach, Susan Gibney, who has had cameos on many TV shows and is best known for her role on STAR TREK Next Generation. Susan’s daughter was asked to be a model for a local designer, so she changed her focus from acting to modeling. She has appeared on runways and in catalogs in the Rochester, NYC, Orlando, and Toronto areas.
A small team can make a big impact. Two women, Susan Katz-Aser and Susan Gibney, formed Two Sues’ Casting. It was another of Susan Katz-Aser’s brilliant ideas. As her casting and location company grew, clients were asking for more actors, not just locations. Susan turned to Susan Gibney as a resource since she was already working with a diverse group of aspiring actors. Directors benefit from Two Sues’ Casting, successfully making their films in a shorter period of time, staying on budget, and working with professionally trained and experienced actors.
Their Facebook page bridges the gap between actors and film makers. The Two Sues’ Casting website is still in the development stages. It will be a great addition as it melds together the components of the two social media sites.
Here is a Personal note from Susan: “I just turned 52. I feel I have earned every wrinkle, but not every gray hair! I love connecting people or businesses with other people and businesses. My favorite thing to do is to sit on my back porch and feed the birds, squirrels, deer and pet the chipmunks! Yes, I am a bit like Snow White…until I start to sing and they all scatter. I love movies and detective TV shows, but most of all I love watching my kids getting excited and succeeding in areas of their interests.”
“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” — Estée Lauder
Estée Lauder defined success. Susan lives it, while always trying to perfect it.