On what stage do you find your passion? I was raised in Edison, New Jersey in an Italian-American household. My father was a small business owner and my mother was the company bookkeeper. My parents encouraged me and my two brothers to pursue anything in life with passion and drive no matter how difficult the obstacles seemed to be.
Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage”; this has been especially true for me. Through empowering and influencing others to make positive, strategic life choices, my “stage” has taken many different forms. In a high school auditorium in inner-city Baltimore, I have encouraged seniors to navigate the wild world of college. In motivational workshops and seminars to Haitian college students, the first generation to seek higher education. An executive boardroom in Port-au-Prince, negotiating to a top CEO why he should hire my students. An Amish farmer, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where I respectfully encourage his participation in a benefit auction for Haitians will never meet, in a country, he will never visit. Calming the nerves of an anxious bride who is considering hosting her big day at my company’s event venue. Even an actual stage, and a big one! On a 300-foot wrap around stage, performing in over 6000 productions spanning 13-years at the nation’s largest Christian theatre. My stage can be anywhere. Serving others and providing opportunity has been the keystone to my motivation and passion.
I was diagnosed with learning disabilities including audio-visual perceptual impairment, dyslexia, and ADD at an early age. I academically suffered during a time when my private school was just beginning to understand how these disabilities were challenging to non-traditional learners. At 17, I failed my written driver’s license test seven times, and I felt frustrated and exasperated. A high school guidance counselor once told me that with luck, I would work at McDonald’s.
These early challenges developed in me a persistent drive and motivation to help other nontraditional learners and marginalized peoples gain access to opportunities to become successful in life.
With strategic vision and effective communication skills, I transformed my bicentennial family farm into the successful Hertzog Homestead Bed & Breakfast in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Along with my team, we created a unique and hospitable environment for countless guests from around the world. In 2015, I spearheaded the restoration of our 200-year-old historic limestone bank barn into a three-season event venue for weddings, executive functions, and fundraising events. My husband Scott and I have two children, a 16-year-old daughter adopted from Haiti and a 10-year old biological son, who is the 9th generation from an unbroken family bloodline to live at Hertzog Homestead.
By “surrounding myself with people who know more than me”, my brand of empowerment includes overall creative direction; yet I allow my staff to strategically collaborate to reach goals and objectives and encourage them to test them without judgment or fear of failure. The results have allowed me to quadruple our Bed & Breakfast capacity, open a Spa Cottage with holistic options, and restore and open the barn Event Venue within a decade.
In short, over 12 million people have witnessed my speaking and theatrical ability through positive messaging live on stage, over 5,000 American high school students have been inspired by my motivational speeches and made the choice to get information on colleges. 30 Haitian students have earned diplomas and degrees online at computer centers which I created in Haiti’s earthquake zone, where 28 of 32 universities were destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. Many of these young people are now gainfully employed in their native country, a result of my networking ability in calling on CEOs of international companies to give those graduates opportunity to interview for positions. For the past 5 years, my business, Hertzog Homestead has expanded and increased profits. I have even rallied Amish and Old Order Mennonites together through my startup Hope for Haiti Benefit Auction, which brought over 900 community members on my property last year to raise funds for nonprofits working in educational initiatives in Haiti.